Players deliver pep talk on need for collaborative approach to innovating

Mark Henderson
November 22, 2017

Canada has been longing for its turn to be an innovation leader but constantly looking to Silicon Valley as a role model is not going to be enough. Innovators big and small have to take risks and jump on the opportunity. And they don’t have to do it alone.

Innovators large and small gathered in Toronto last week for an innovation forum where investors, technology providers and technology users got a chance to learn from each other and prod each other to take the chance – because change is inevitable and innovation is an imperative, said Dino Trevisani, general manager of IBM Canada.

Trevisani engaged in a fireside chat with Arlene Dickinson, Dragon’s Den TV personality and investor, who urged Canadians to be unCanadian by thinking big, taking risks and adopting an entrepreneurial mindset in their organizations.

Trevisani and Dickinson talked about Canadian culture and Canadian resources, including the wealth of talent and technologies available to local innovators. Despite these, however, Canada has yet to reach the level of innovation and entrepreneurship that abound in innovation hubs in Silicon Valley, Boston and Texas, where an estimated 25% of US GDP is generated.

“We have to stop saying: ‘We can only go so big or so far because we’re Canadian.’ We have to be willing to say: ‘There’s nothing we can’t do.’ We have skills, talent, technology,” said Dickinson, who has invested in Canadian food and health companies. “I would encourage everybody in this room – and you are all innovators -- and think about how you can go back to your large and entrepreneurial organization, and deploy technologies in a way that can disrupt and be your way forward.”

Dickinson urged the innovators to look for partners and available resources to help their businesses succeed.

IBM Canada said the forum was one avenue to help Canadian innovators to look for these partners to help them innovate. At the forum were various industry players – from healthcare to financial services and real estate – who shared experiences on their often complex  innovation journeys.

“What we’re saying to people is this path to innovation, to growth, to impact and solving some of the challenges in society and business in Canada has to happen from the context of collaboration … and taking advantage of those technologies and disruptions and skills that are available in Canada,” said Allen Lalonde Sr, innovation executive for IBM Canada’s Research & Development Centre.

Lalonde added that innovation can happen by connecting large enterprises with small business, academia and government. He said small entrepreneurs, in particular, may find it challenging to pursue and grow their ideas and bring them to market. To help entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas at a global scale, Lalonde urged them to work with large enterprises and similar partners who can understand their needs and opportunities.

For example, Dickinson’s District Ventures and IBM set up an innovation hub - the District Ventures IBM Innovation Space - in Calgary earlier this year, as a space for innovators to collaborate. It is described as a “unique innovation accelerator (that) will help companies incubate and innovate ideas more rapidly, moving their business plans to commercialization.” It is one of IBM Canada’s investments in innovation spaces.

“Arlene (Dickinson) and IBM share that vision that the perfect storm for innovation is when people get together and bring these ideas and needs together with technology advances and capabilities,” said Lalonde in an interview with RE$EARCH MONEY.

Dickinson added that government policy is also important.

“We all talk about Canada’s turn is coming and this is Canada’s moment. But there are a few things to make it Canada’s moment,” she said, stressing that change takes time to happen, and it helps to have a change champion in the enterprise. “One is we have to have good government policy. We need good government policy in place to allow large companies and startups to succeed.”



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