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Jan 19, 2011
Technovation: a shift in philosophy, an investment in Alberta’s future
From around the globe, Technovation’s (Technology driven Innovation) influence on our lives continues to increase at an exponential pace. Technology is a common factor in the daily lives of virtually everyone - from Mobile Apps to Facebook to in-vehicle monitoring systems to office webinars to robotic field personnel. Technology and the knowledge-based economy are here and must be embraced for any level of productive living, working, interacting. Most innovations today include a significant technological component, “Innovation” and technology are virtually inseparable; hence the term “Technovation’. The global economy is evolving at an intense rate of speed, and technology and cyber or e-business are now a fundamental part of mainstream commerce.
Alberta is lagging in its investment in and commitment to innovation and technology. In its recent report on Alberta Competitiveness 2010 Alberta scores highest in entrepreneurialism but lowest in innovation. Current philosophies and priorities in government reveal a more traditional, staid approach to communications, commerce, and generation of wealth. Unless fundamental shifts in thinking and practice are made, Alberta will continue to fall further behind.
According to a white paper written on Silicon Valley based on Michael Porter’s economic cluster model to economic success, the private sector plays prominently as a key contributor to a robust Technovative society. This paper lists five major components that contribute to the success in Technovation experienced by Silicon Valley:
- Publicly funded Researchers,
- Privately funded Innovators (Technovators),
- Venture Capitalists
Alberta’s current Technovation support policies are housed in the ministry of Advanced Education and Technology. As the name implies, most of the focus for the development of technology and innovation is on educational institutions and their programming priorities. Yet within the private sector exists an abundance of fresh, inspired, innovative ideas that have significant obstacles that often prevent them from getting to market. Lack of understanding of and commitment to knowledge-based e-business that may not have tangible assets puts Alberta entrepreneurs at a distinct disadvantage. However, if a Proof of Concept model were adopted, Technovators would likely have valuable assets that could be legally protect and financed through traditional means.
Technovators are currently stymied in the business process because Alberta is operating on philosophies premised on an industrial business model, and because current government thinking espouses the belief that innovation only occurs in post secondary institutions. Technovations are no longer limited to a select few research labs, universities, and government controlled entities. Technovations are born every day not only in academia, but also in the private sector, by creative SME’s/entrepreneurs, tech savvy youth, industry field personnel and every day consumers looking for a better way. Assumptions that entrepreneurs not associated with universities life are not suitable candidates for R&D support are stunting the flow of new business ideas and opportunity. Many pervasive, mainstream technologies today were born in “garages” and “cyber space”. The majority of Technovations have come from the private sector. If there were collective energy amongst Alberta leaders to start promoting private sector R&D more we would, in the end, all benefit, since new Technovations would become more readily available to enterprising SME’s/entrepreneurs, who in turn would build businesses on the Technovation creating profits, giving back to our economy through increased tax base, employment, competitiveness, provincial acclaim, and ancillary economic activity through the supply chain.
Government initiative and leadership in support of Technovation is more important than the pursuit of Venture Capital (VC). Although VC can and should play a role in the development and support of technovation, it is the Alberta economy that stands to gain. A recent article in the Globe and Mail report on Community Futures cites that “For every $1 spent in loans to SME’s, on average, Canada gets $4.2 back”.
Unlike Alberta, Ontario has recognized this need for change and is busy implementing the same thinking right now, recognizing that Technovation possibilities abound and that meaningfully supporting and promoting them reaps many benefits. We’re in new territory now – the business and innovation climate has changed because of technology. Through capitalizing on a balanced combination of educational programming and the cultivation of market-driven, private sector technovation opportunities, Alberta can address issues such as job creation, a stable, diverse economy, brain drain, wealth creation and global competitiveness and strengthen its enviable position as the number one economic driver in Canada.
Consequently, the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce recommends that the Government of Alberta capitalize on its enterprising, bright, pro business culture and become a major player in the global knowledge-based economy by:
 Silicon Valley White Paper, Jarunee Wonglimpiyarat www.sciencedirect.com
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