“Too few Canadian
businesses and entrepreneurs choose strategies that emphasize innovation”,
says Robert Brown, Chair of the panel of 18 business, labour and academic
authorities appointed by the Council of Canadian Academies to analyze the
innovation performance of Canadian businesses. The panel’s report, Innovation
and Business Strategy: Why Canada Falls Short, presents a fresh look at
innovation as an economic process.

Building on decades of data from various national and international
statistical agencies, the panel finds that Canada’s productivity has been
falling further behind that of the U.S. and many other advanced countries for
the past 25 years. The report presents statistical evidence, stretching back
almost five decades, to show how lagging productivity growth has been due to
subpar innovation. The panel takes a broad view of innovation, including not
just the outcome of research and development but also the day-to-day
activities of all kinds of businesses looking for new or more efficient ways
to serve the needs of customers.

The panel also points out that Canadian business has lagged in investment
in information and communications technologies – about 40% less on a per
worker basis than the U.S. The panel concludes that too many businesses in
Canada are technology followers, not leaders.

“We hope this report will spark a fresh discussion on innovation in
Canada, one that focuses on the factors that influence adoption of
innovation-based business strategies,” said Brown. “The many innovation
successes of individual Canadian businesses show that there is nothing innate
in the national character that prevents Canada’s businesses from being just as
innovative and productive as those of other nations. With each new generation,
Canadian business people have an increasingly global mindset and will be
further removed from the more limiting conceptions that shaped the attitudes
and ambitions of too many business leaders in the nation’s past,” Mr. Brown

The state of the global economy has changed dramatically since the panel
began its study in November 2007. While the full implications of the current
crisis will only become clear with the passage of time, the panel’s report
provides a longer-term perspective on the performance of the Canadian business
sector stretching over decades and across several ups and downs of the
economic cycle. The panel’s wide-ranging diagnosis of business innovation in
Canada can inform actions today that will equip the economy for stronger
performance in the future.