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Innovation Canada: A Call to Action

9. Conclusion

We are honoured to have been given the opportunity to undertake the Review of Federal Support to Research and Development — an initiative launched at a critical time that is a nexus of global economic instability and rapid emergence of new powers. In this context of opportunity and challenge, the countries most likely to succeed are those that understand that business innovation holds the key to rising living standards and to a more creative economy and society. In this regard, we are optimistic that our recommendations — implemented in tandem with equally important enhancements to marketplace frameworks — can play a central role in helping Canada to become one of the world's innovation leaders. We have no doubt that this goal is attainable.

That said, addressing a decades-long trend of poor innovation performance will not be easy. Concerted action will be needed in multiple arenas. Our recommendations — which affect only a limited part of the wider innovation picture — will also present challenges. Their implementation will require collaboration, cooperation and dialogue across several federal departments and agencies, as well as with the provinces, the business sector and postsecondary institutions. This process cannot succeed without renewed focus and leadership in government. That is why we have recommended governance changes aimed at establishing business innovation as a whole-of-government priority.

Below is an overview of what we see as the "end game" of our advice — a brief snapshot of our recommendations boiled down to their essence.

The End Game

Guided by strong leadership and sound principles, and through concerted action, the end result of our recommendations will be:

  • A rebalanced, more effective system of federal assistance for business innovation that helps innovative firms grow and prosper with ready access to:
    • R&D and commercialization funding
    • highly qualified and skilled personnel
    • ideas, knowledge and research capacity through collaboration with innovation partners
    • capital to grow from start-ups to worldcompetitive, large firms
    • procurement opportunities that stimulate demand for innovative goods, services and technologies
    • an improved Scientific Research and Experimental Development program that is simpler, more effective, more predictable and more accountable.
  • A commitment to measurable outcomes, increased effectiveness, heightened efficiency and enhanced collaboration put into effect through a whole-of-government approach to governance that includes:
    • an improved performance management system for federal business innovation programs
    • an external Innovation Advisory Committee that advises on key goals, on the measurement and evaluation of policy and program effectiveness, and on new opportunities and approaches
    • a common delivery platform for business innovation programs — the Industrial Research and Innovation Council — that delivers the Industrial Research Assistance Program and a new commercialization vouchers pilot program, provides a singlewindow "concierge" and web portal for business innovation programs, develops a federal business innovation talent strategy, partners with the federal granting agencies on joint oversight of appropriate businessfacing programs administered by those agencies, performs the technical assessment of regional development agency innovation proposals, and oversees the federal funding of large-scale sectoral collaborative research institutes.
  • A national constellation of world-class research institutes that are formed by streamlining the institutes of the National Research Council (NRC), through a five-year plan, into one of four types of organization:
    • industry-oriented, non-profit research organizations mandated to undertake collaborative R&D and commercialization projects and services, funded by amounts drawn against existing NRC appropriations together with revenue earned from collaborative activities
    • institutes engaged in basic research to be affiliated with one or more universities and funded by an amount drawn against existing NRC appropriations together with contributions from university and/or provincial partners
    • parts of non-profit organizations mandated to manage what are currently NRC major science initiatives and potentially other such research infrastructure in Canada
    • institutes or units providing services in support of a public policy mandate and to be incorporated within the relevant federal department or agency.

The Way Forward

Going forward, the Panel welcomes the opportunity to meet with government officials, business leaders and post-secondary institutions to discuss our recommendations. Our end game is ambitious, but so too is our vision — a Canadian business sector that stands shoulderto- shoulder with the world's innovation leaders. While this is a long-term goal, government action must be swift and decisive, because the impact of the initiatives begun today may take years, even decades, to be fully realized.

The longest journey begins with the first step, so the time to act is now.