An expert panel has come up with 10 ways to turn Canada into a “nation of innovators”. The top two?
1. Make R&D tax credits open to public companies and businesses that lose money.
2. Create government-sponsored “co-investment funds” with private investors to finance emerging companies.
In fact, four of the ten ideas relate to getting government money. Another suggests adopting “the world’s strongest intellectual property regime”, though I can only see how this will protect existing companies and chill innovation.
I’m not sure that helping “foreign graduate students gain permanent immigration status” will improve anything unless we assume that these foreign students are the ones with the innovative ideas. Or are we looking for cheap labour?
There isn’t really one idea on the list that specifically improve innovation. They all presuppose innovation. They don’t address Canada’s lack of innovation.
So why does Canada lack innovation as compared to countries like the United States or Israel? There is one simple answer: Canadians don’t like to take risks. Americans do. And as a former CEO of an Israeli company once told me, he takes a risk just getting out of bed.
And we don’t glorify innovation. We don’t celebrate our entrepreneurs; the Canadians that take a risk to create great things. Hockey players, actors, Justin Bieber sure. But when is the last time you heard about Timothy Eaton or Ted Rogers?
When we start teaching kids in school about the people that build the country and its successful businesses, and teach them to take chances, then we might spur them to think that creating something and building a business around it is ok.
Throwing more government money at the problem will not make Canada more innovative. Teaching children the sheer joy of creating and learning will.