Canadian Innovation: A Look at History, Today & Tomorrow

The history of Canadian invention has spanned more than a century with over one million patents filed – yet few people can name more than one or two Canadian inventors. The most common name that comes to mind is Alexander Graham Bell – the inventor of the telephone in 1867. Over 125 years later Mike Lazaridis & Doug Fregin sought to greatly improve the telephone through adding wireless email functionality – this was the start of Canada’s treasured RIM (Research in Motion) corporation. In between these two great feats of innovation – thesnowmobile, snow-blower, hockey mask and Robertson screwdriver were born, perhaps out of necessity due to Canada’s scattered population and harsh climate.

First Telehone

What about today? Are Canadian’s inventing, investing & innovating at the frivolous pace of years past? A recent Globe and Mail article highlighted that US patent authorities issued a record 5,223 patents to Canadian firms and individual inventors last year, up 20 per cent from 2009. This Canadian patent breakdown includes:

  • Ontario as the largest patent hosting province (52% of the new patents issued to Canadian entities in 2009)
  • RIM’s continuous growth in patents has contributed to over half of the Ontario patent growth from 2008 to 2009
  • Canada ranks 6th in the world for US filed patents, ahead of many large European countries, including France, Britain and the Netherlands as wells as China

This is welcoming news for Canada, who has braved the recession and come out ahead – combined with a high-riding Loonie and low interest rates, Canada’s in a prime position for growth in innovation. However two items impeding Canada’s innovation trajectory may be their dependence on natural resources and R&D funding levels. Currently 2/3 of Canada’s exports are resource based – having doubled over the past decade. This adds fuel to the fire for those who see Canada’s dependence on natural resources as hampering innovation and business creativity when compared to countries less well-endowed with agriculture, forests, fisheries and oil.

Loonie

“Canadian business spends less per capita on research and development, innovation and commercialization than most other industrialized countries, despite the Government of Canada investing more than $7 billion annually to encourage business R&D,” said Minister Blackburn.

These investments in research and development are what countries need to maintain their global competitiveness in terms of innovation. Take Switzerland for example, they have the highest ratio of R&D investments (compared with GDP) in the world: 3.74, compared with Canada’s 1.84. Switzerland also led the world with 120 patents per million people compared to Canada’s 20 per million. The World Economic form recognized this accomplishment and last year declared Switzerland as “the most competitive country in the world” – a title that can clearly be attributed to government investments in research and development. For Canada to step up their “innovation competitiveness” – entrepreneurs, startups and big business must heed the call and leverage Government investments in R&D and small business IT Solutions.

To see where the Government of Canada plans to invest the $7 Billion designated this year to stimulate R&D please visit http://www.gfundsonline.com/ – where you will find a great breakdown of the funding programs available for business and entrepreneurs.

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