Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Highlights of Innovation 2010

December 5 to 7
Westin Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario

Innovation 2010

Globally, innovation is recognized as the driving force towards lasting sustainable prosperity in the coming decades. The federal government’s science and technology (S&T) strategy promotes action to grow the translation of knowledge into commercial applications that generate wealth for Canadians and support a high quality of life. We have the opportunity to build a world-class innovation ecosystem in Canada. The challenge is to foster increased partnerships and collaboration among the public, academic and private sectors to ensure we improve knowledge mobilization and commercialization for world-class next-generation products and services. In keeping with these challenges and opportunities, ACCT Canada, Federal Partners in Technology Transfer (FPTT) and the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) were pleased to present Innovation 2010, their first national joint conference on innovation and competitiveness in Canada.

Innovation 2010 was a groundbreaking summit where Canadian leaders from publicly-funded research organizations and private enterprises gathered for the express purpose of building the next generation of partnerships, networks and tools to accelerate knowledge mobilization and commercialization of innovation for the benefit of Canadians.

The opportunity to network and attend several forums to discuss critical issues, such as product incubation, technology transfer and knowledge mobilization, allowed the various stakeholders in the Networks of Centres of Excellence to learn more about their common challenges and share strategic solutions.

Here are some of the highlights of Innovation 2010.

The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, gave the main keynote address of the conference at noon on Monday, December 6, when he announced $61.1 million in funding for five new centres of excellence for commercialization and research.

“I can say that your dedication, your hard work and your eagerness to collaborate with the private sector will help drive these investments to their full potential and realize real benefits for real people,” said Minister Clement.

Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry

Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry

Minister Clement also announced that $2.8 million in funding from the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence program will go towards the creation of new projects with small and medium-sized enterprises. This year, five such projects were selected—accounting for about half of the allotted funding. These projects will support improved technology for medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and neuro-endocrine tumours as well as environmental priorities such as renewable jet fuel.

In his closing comments, Minster Clement commended Innovation 2010 as a unique platform that has brought together leaders from publicly-funded research organizations and the private sector to talk about best practices in bringing brilliant ideas from labs across the country to the marketplace faster.

(Left) Jean-Claude Gavrel (Networks of Centres of Excellence), Charles Randell (CEO C-Core), Ted Hewitt (CImTeC), Peter Zandstra (CCRM), Jim Maynard (WWCC), Chad Gaffield (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, Normand Bourbonnais (MIC2), Suzanne Fortier (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council).

(Left) Jean-Claude Gavrel (Networks of Centres of Excellence), Aaron Fenster (CImTeC), Charles Randell (CEO C-Core), Peter Zandstra (CCRM), Jim Maynard (Wavefront), Chad Gaffield (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, Normand Bourbonnais (MIC2), Suzanne Fortier (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council).

The President and CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, former Official Opposition Leader Preston Manning, also delivered a keynote address about the future of innovation in Canada. He offered his experienced insight on the current state of innovation in Canada:

“One of the keys to vigorous economic recovery is to increase the productivity and competitiveness of our private sector,” said Mr. Manning. “The main tool for doing that is science-based technology and innovation.”

Preston Manning, C.C.

Preston Manning, C.C., Former leader of the Opposition; Founder, President and CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy; Companion of the Order of Canada

In addressing Canada’s innovation challenges, Mr. Manning cited the 2009 report produced by the Council of Canadian Academies, Innovation and Business Strategy: Why Canada falls short?, which he summarized, stating that the private sector needs to improve its innovation strategies. To help foster growth in private sector innovation, Mr. Manning pointed to a recent publication by the Coalition for Action on Innovation in Canada, and in particular two initiatives he felt were most relevant to the Innovation 2010 audience: tax reform for private sector R&D; and stronger communications between business and academia, especially between industry partners and university technology transfer offices.

Patrick Horgan, Vice-President, Manufacturing, Development and Operations, IBM Canada, also gave a keynote address at the conference. A strong voice advocating a robust digital economy strategy and the advancement of the information technology industry in Canada, Mr. Horgan spoke about the need to build smarter cities through accelerated innovation and productivity.

“It’s time to leverage our position and reinvent how we see ourselves in the future,” said Mr. Horgan. “So far, the economic recovery in Canada has been government-led and consumer-led. The next phase must be led by business, with exports competitive on a global scale.”

To do this, Mr. Horgan said Canada must invest in infrastructure to create world-class systems that enable smarter energy grids, intelligent health care and better transportation systems, all of which will allow Canadian companies to be more competitive.

“We need to create more value from the vast amount of information generated by our systems and networks, a strategy that will further encourage innovation in R&D,” said Mr. Horgan.

He emphasized the need to build skills for the digital economy, focusing on education in math, engineering and computer science.

Mr. Horgan said that IBM’s success is built upon constant reinvention and the company’s ongoing knowledge of how to satisfy customers.

“Creative leadership is transforming complexity into opportunity: it helps to define how you want to be known over the long haul and to have the courage to take risks and be bold,” said Mr. Horgan. “It also helps to break down traditional barriers to make sure that we pursue better answers, look for better ways to communicate with our stakeholders to engage them in the dialogue around the problem and ensure they participate in the solutions.”

The Honourable Rob Moore, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism), spoke later that day about the ways in which government can help SMEs grow and innovate by, for example, cutting taxes, eliminating tariffs on imported machinery, and continuing to make strategic investments in innovative businesses through programs such as the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP).

The Honourable Rob Moore

The Honourable Rob Moore, Minister of State, Small Business and Tourism

Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Cambridge Dr. Alan Barrell delivered a keynote speech in which he identified the biggest challenges facing our world: the financial crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis, and food and water sustainability. He said, however, that rather than looking at these situations as crises, we should think of them as opportunities, “exploring the fine line between creativity and discovery.”

Several panel discussions held throughout the three-day event provided opportunities for experts from academia, industry and the public sector to share best practices, successes and challenges.

Representatives of the NCE networks and centres either served as moderators for or presenters in several panel sessions; topics ranged from successful global industry/public sector/university collaborations to university procurement practices and strategies for advancing innovation and prosperity in Canada.   

Drew Lyall, Executive Director of the Stem Cell Network, participated in a panel discussion on the differences between academic and market industry realities, and on how to overcome misunderstandings that can occur during agreements and collaborations. Mr. Lyall was joined by Dr. Robert Luke, Assistant Vice-President of George Brown College, Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s University, and Dr. Chad English, Director of Research and Development with the Neptec Design Group.

Drew Lyall

Drew Lyall, Exective Director of the Stem Cell Network

In a session later that same day, Tom Duxbury, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Wesley Clover Technologies, showcased his company’s Venture Program, or what he calls the “incubaneurship” model, where recent university graduates have the opportunity to develop an idea into a commercialized product and bring it to market through the creation of a start-up company. Offering new entrepreneurs management and operational experience, Wesley Clover helps these companies grow for the first few years with the idea that they will become sustainable and turn a profit.

Eric Bosco, MITACS’s Vice-President of Business Development – Quebec and Atlantic Canada, talked about the MITACS model for training a new generation of entrepreneurs: the Networks of Centres of Excellence’s Industrial Research and Development Internship (IRDI) program. This program places graduate and post-doctoral students strategically in private sector organizations and provides them with the opportunity to solve critical and relevant industry problems. The IRDI program benefits both the intern by offering practical experience in his or her field, and the industry partner by providing a highly skilled intern with research knowledge and experience.

Other panel discussions raised issues critical to the path of successful entrepreneurship, such as the government’s role in supporting innovation through tax incentives. Partners in industry-academic collaborations also told stories about hurdles they have overcome and useful networks they have tapped into. The Scientific Director and CEO of AUTO21, Dr. Peter Frise, and AUTO21 Researcher Dr. Colin Novak shared their experience of collaborating with Magna Exteriors and Interiors Corporation, which was represented by William Henry, Executive Director of Research and Development; both sides highlighted the “hard” and “soft” aspects of the relationship—what has worked, and what has not.

Natalie Dakers, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), began a panel discussion about models of collaborative development, describing the approach the Centre has taken to bridge the gap between early-stage innovative ideas coming out of universities and commercial opportunities.

She described the mission of CDRD, which has to date supported 76 projects:

“Our vision is to transform the culture of scientific innovation and commercialization impacting health. The word to highlight here is ‘culture.’ I think we talk a lot about the financial gap, but frankly I think one the toughest gaps to deal with is the cultural differences between those two polar activities [innovation and commercialization].”

Ms. Dakers said that trying to get to the threshold where you can attract outside investment to early-stage discoveries is challenging, but CDRD has found an innovative approach to attract funding.

“CDRD is a not-for-profit organization, but we also have a private commercialization arm to be able to attract all kinds of funding,” said Ms. Dakers. “The profits that are made in the private company can be put back into the not-for-profit engine to continue fuelling future commercialization.”

Natalee Tokar offered another perspective of industry-academic collaboration. As Acting Director of the Research and Innovation Division at Niagara College, she talked about how colleges across Ontario are aligning their training in applied research with current industry demands, particularly those articulated by regional and local SMEs. 

“They [colleges across Ontario are] helping local SMEs, which don’t have the research capacity to innovate, take their business to the next level,” said Ms. Tokar.

The closing remarks in the panel discussion on models of collaboration were given by Dr. Johnny Xavier of the University of Saskatchewan’s Industry Liaison Office. He stressed that it is essential for industry and academia to forge long-term relationships to better deal with issues of Intellectual Property and confidentiality. Only then will innovations move quickly from the lab to the marketplace.

Katie Lafferty

Katie Lafferty, Executive Director of the Canadian Stroke Network (CSN)

Katie Lafferty, Executive Director of the Canadian Stroke Network (CSN), moderated a panel discussion on best practices for using health research to improve health care systems. Dr. Patrice Lindsay of the CSN, Christina O’Callaghan of the Ontario Stroke Network and Dr. Mark Bayley of the Toronto Rehabilitation Centre talked about their efforts and successes in forging and executing the Canadian Stroke Strategy, a nationwide program that helps to ensure the latest evidence in stroke research is being applied in the health care system.

One of the last sessions of the conference explored the ways of turning research into action through knowledge translation and knowledge brokering strategies. Dr. David Phipps, Director of the Office of Research Services at York University, shared several success stories about initiatives that have engaged user communities in university research, including a research helpdesk that connects experts in academia with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private enterprise and government.

Bernadette Conant, Executive Director of the Canadian Water Network, said a common difficulty experienced by researchers is the fact that they don’t understand the implications of their research.

“[Researchers] must think more about outcomes, and the policy and practical decisions that come out of their work. Knowledge of the ‘customer’ or connection to the user community is essential.”

During the three-day event, communicators from several networks and centres had the opportunity to meet and share best practices; they also showcased their aptitude for team work and their problem-solving skills in an ice-breaker exercise where they were split into teams and instructed to try to build the tallest free-standing structure out of a bag of materials that included 20 raw spaghetti noodles, one yard of masking tape and a marshmallow.

(Left) Norman Secuta (PTRC), Charleen Choboter (ISIS), Marta Rudyk (AllerGen), Megan Airton-Cindric (MITACS)

(Left) Norman Secuta (PTRC), Charleen Choboter (ISIS), Marta Rudyk (AllerGen), Megan Airton-Cindric (MITACS)

The Networks of Centres of Excellence Secretariat would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to its partners, the Federal Partners of Technology Transfer (FPTT) and ACCT Canada, for helping to plan and execute this year’s edition of what has become a highly successful and widely attended annual event. A special thank you as well goes out to the Innovation 2010 Program and Marketing and Communications Committees, for putting together an excellent, leading-edge plenary.

Finally, the NCE Secretariat would like to thank all of the conference participants—from across the country, the attendees from the networks and centres, the exhibitors and the showcase participants—for making each session a lively and dynamic discussion on the topic of innovation. The conference would not have been what it was without your enthusiasm.