This blog post was written by Business Services analyst Harman Malhi.
Queue the motion sickness
Canadians are great innovators – just look in our own backyard. The forest city is home to some of the top research institutions in Canada, including Robarts, Lawson Health Research Institute, and Western University. We have some of the brightest minds working on solving some of the world’s biggest problems, and successfully doing so. But, why does Canada do such a terrible job at commercializing our findings?
In a recent article in The Globe and Mail, Jim Balsillie talks about the commercialization gap in Canada and what we need to do to fix it. Having over 20 years of experience at RIM, Jim talks about what he has seen over the years and the challenges he has faced when growing his Canadian company. Within the article, Balsillie talks about the relationship that needs to develop between the government and corporations; they need to work together to take these innovations to market. To read his insightful article click here.
Currently, there is a tremendous amount of tax payer dollars being put into the top research institutions to fund research innovation. There is a barrier placed between innovation and commercialization – a barrier that can be easily overcome if funding was available, and access to the technologies from Canadian research institutions was made easier.
Also, there is a lack of knowledge with regards to technology transfer and commercialization. Innovators are great at what they do, but there are few innovators who know what it takes to commercialize a product. How do you take your innovation from bench-top to bedside? The individuals with the commercialization experience and the innovators need to be connected, and there needs to be that knowledge transfer, which allows the commercialization process to become more efficient.
What are we doing to change this? In response to the commercialization gap in Canada, TechAlliance in partnership with WorlDiscoveries, Propel, Leap Junction, and Western Research Parks is holding a 4 month commercialization competition called Proteus. The aim of Proteus is to challenge the community to develop a viable commercialization plan for 1 of 5 amazing technologies provided by the tech transfer office. These technologies are patented and developed by researchers at our local research institutes. The hope is that teams will be formed around the 5 technologies to develop a commercialization plan. More information can be found at www.proteusic.com
How does this help? By allowing innovators to connect with individuals who have the skills to commercialize, we are creating a platform for commercialization. We want to give people the opportunity to develop a business around an academic technology that has already had the benefit of a great deal of tax dollars invested in it. We are attempting to take some of the risk out of commercialization and creating lines of communication between our institutions and our local business community. This should increase commercial opportunities, job creation, and ultimately wealth creation that goes back into our community. Also, with the incentive of a cash prize, we are providing potential funding to the competitors to apply what they have learned and the skills they have gained through the competition to commercialize their chosen technology.
Education and funding are just the start in getting Canada back into the commercialization game. The government needs to realize that policy changes need to be implemented to make the technology transfer offices more conducive to business.
Til next time, Forest City!