Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Innovate This!

Canada apparently does not innovate so well:
Canada ranked 14th out of 17 peer countries in overall innovation performance in the Conference Board’s How Canada Performs: Innovation report card (published in 2010). Moreover, Canada has obtained consistent “D” grades in innovation performance since the 1980s. 
Perhaps Canadians are too busy trying to stay warm to spend time tinkering with the latest widget.  Nope, Sweden is ranked ahead and it is mighty cold here.

Perhaps Canadians do not innovate because those who do, such as Jim Basillie and the folks behind Blackberry, are denied the fruits of their labor (NHL is not letting Basillie move a team to Hamilton, Ontario). 

Perhaps it is because Canada produces few PhDs:
 Yet Canada is a consistent top performer overall in the Education and Skills report card, ranking second only to Finland in the most recent release. Canada’s ranking slips, however, as we move from high-school completion (second) to university completion (fifth) to PhD graduates (last of 17).
Apparently, PhD production is correlated with innovation. Perhaps unemployed PhDs can develop critical mass and then propose all kinds of new ideas?  It is this point that raises the hairs on the back of my neck.  Given the current employment crisis for PhDs, I fear that the desire for more innovation would lead to encouraging more programs to produce more PhDs but not necessarily jobs for those PhDs. 

The funny thing is that the Canada Research Chairs program and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation were aimed at reversing the brain drain, bringing back lost Canadian scientists and bringing in folks form elsewhere to compensate for the lost Canadians.  So, it is apparently my fault, as I enter my tenth and final year in the CRC program (the junior chairs are for five years and can only be renewed once) that Canada is failing to innovate.  I have not come up with enough new ideas, invented any widgets, or produced enough brilliant PhD students.  Well, the latter I have in great surplus but most of them have gone south for jobs.

Aye, there is the rub.  I am not sure we can figure out how innovative Canadians are anymore since there are plenty of Canadians innovating in the US and plenty of foreigners innovating while in Canada.  There is no Silicon Valley up here, but then again, Silicon Valley is not what it used to be.  I guess I have a hard time seeing how business and academics are supposed to work together to foster innovation since there are few corporations in the Irredentism business.  And those that might be would probably not make it past a research ethics board.

The only thing I can recommend is: more slots for academic researchers.  But you knew that i would be saying that.

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