Productivity and Innovation at CFI annual meeting
With so much discussion from the Canadian Science Policy Conference, I haven’t really been keeping up with other goings-on in Canadian science policy news. I’ll survey some of these developments in the next few days.
CFI held its annual public meeting in Ottawa two weeks ago. The keynote address was by Charles Baillie, former CEO and chair of TD Bank and Chancellor Emeritus, Queen’s University. Mr. Baillie used his address to discuss productivity and innovation – the currently-dominant themes in science policy circles (a copy of his speech can be obtained by .pdf).
Baillie’s thesis is that Canada’s standard of living is sliding due to a reliance on the resource economy and a lack of productivity. He suggests four ways to improve our productivity:
- more high-end, skilled jobs like those at Research In Motion. He doesn’t suggest how we can achieve this;
- increased innovation through R&D. Despite our highly-attractive corporate tax structures, we lag in business R&D, suggesting our incentives aren’t working. Unfortunately, no solutions are proffered;
- “if we are to recognize that government funding is part of the Canadian landscape, then we should, at the very least, tie the allocation of university research grants more closely to private sector partnerships and to projects with commercialization potential“. I love that “if”;
- Increased commitment to education. Baillie suggests that we need to increase early-childhood education, decrease high-school dropout rates, and make sure our immigrants speak better French and/or English.
You know, I’ve attended a lot of speeches and read a lot of articles about how to increase and improve productivity and innovation. They all do a bang-up job of outlining the problem, but generally do a terrible job of proposing anything like realistic solutions.
Why don’t we approach this problem more rationally, and perform an analysis to identify “best practices” in other countries that are succeeding in innovation and productivity? The admirable report from the Council of Canadian Academies focused pretty strictly on identifying and characterizing the problems in Canada, and the STIC report focused on how we were measuring up against other countries, but didn’t identify the policies that may have contributed to our poor showing. Why not draft a pro-active report that can identify actionable policy steps?