Editorial - 25-1

Guest Contributor
January 31, 2011

A comparison of the US and Canadian approaches to stimulating innovation provides a telling picture of two dramatically different strategies. The US position was forcefully outlined in president Barack Obama's January 27th State of the Union Address. Obama challenged Congress and the US people with creating another "Sputnik moment" by vigorously pursuing innovation. In Canada, a high-level expert panel is examining how the government allocates money incenting the private sector to spend more on R&D.

The US is faced with a massive $1.3 trillion deficit this year, yet Obama wants to commit more funds to education and the S&T enterprise. His rationale includes a fervent belief that a world-class research capability is central to US efforts to remain a world leader.

The R&D Review of Canada's support for private sector R&D and innovation is limited to shuffling the deck, tasked with recommending more effective ways to spend the billions Ottawa has already committed to stimulating industrial innovation. New money is not on the table.

The superiority of the US tact lies in its vision. The launch of the tiny Sputnik satellite in 1957 by the USSR spurred the US to think big scientifically, resulting in incalculable wealth and economic growth in subsequent decades.

By referencing Sputnik, Obama seeks to inspire his nation to rally for a prosperous future in which innovation is front and centre. Canada's political leadership has no such vision and doesn't appear willing to risk more money to primp the innovation pump. Time will tell which strategy will pay long-term dividends.

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