Every day university researchers across Canada and around the world are conducting extraordinary research, but Canada still isn’t making the most of these discoveries by turning them into innovative products to sell globally.
Innovation requires momentum. It requires not only concerted effort by researchers pursuing bold and risky ideas but also deep connections with those who can develop the ideas for application, particularly in industry.
According to the Inclusive Innovation Monitor, Canada ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to public and private higher education research and development spending as a percentage of GDP. Although greater than the United States and the United Kingdom, countries like Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland spend a third more than Canada.
Successive governments both federally and nationally have recognized the need for investment in research and innovation in post-secondary institutions. These investments have been essential in ensuring we can recruit and retain talented researchers from around the world doing cutting edge work. But Canada lags in research and development spending by the private sector. Put simply, we don’t have enough receptors for the great research being done. This results in intellectual property being snapped up by foreign buyers, and our best minds often leaving the country for opportunities to commercialize their research.
Vivek Goel is president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo.