Stimulating the Digital Economy

Keeping Canada at the forefront of the technology-based economy is a difficult proposition. Staying informed is hard enough, but leading the world in technological developments is a job that needs to be equally shared and driven by industry, academia and the government. This is where Mitacs comes in, a publicly-funded organization that uses research and training initiatives to develop cutting-edge tools.

A consortium of Mitacs researchers, government representatives and academics gathered in Toronto, ON, last week to brainstorm the future of the Canadian tech industry. I went along to help assess how we can direct future leaders to stimulate innovation in the fields of: information and communications technologies; intellectual property; scientific research and experimental development; smart technologies; and venture capital.

The Mitacs research member workshop provided an opportunity to:

  • Discuss industry perspectives, directions and emerging technological needs in key umbrella sectors.
  • Cultivate relationships with national industry associations to expand their networks and market reach.
  • Physically bring together the members of the consortium for an opportunity to meet, network and exchange ideas.

The research member workshop on May 12 started out with a lunch and welcome address by Dr. Arvind Gupta, CEO of Mitacs. He stressed the need for real and involved partnerships, and a strong vision for Canada's technology and innovation future.

Following lunch, research members gathered for presentations by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce '€” Canadian Intellectual Property Council and Innovation Policy, BIOTECanada, and the Information Technology Association of Canada. Each one strongly emphasized the importance of stimulating innovation and technology, while bridging the gaps between universities, businesses and start-ups.

Following the presentations, the workshop transitioned into an open discussion on new initiatives, with a large focus on the current Canadian venture capital crisis and our "lag" in technology productivity. The consortium emphasized the need to improve the relationship between academic research and commercialization, create better collaborations between businesses and universities, enable technology transfer, and improve how research is funded and nurtured in Canada.

Moving forward, a large number of Mitacs research members offered to support the development of a pilot program that would match interns with non-industry health partners to promote cross-discipline partnerships. This prompted further discussion about pilot programs in other key sectors, including green/sustainable technologies and civil infrastructure. Future emphasis will depend upon the upcoming government priority list. At the end of the day, it was decided that Mitacs research partners would aim to meet twice a year to keep these ideas flowing.

Following envisioning workshop, many of us attended the Mitacs relaunch event. The original Mitacs organization was re-branded into two unique entities: Mitacs Inc. and Mprime Network Inc. Moving forward, Mitacs will focus on education and outreach, while Mprime will become Canada's primary mathematical sciences research network. The new websites were launched on Monday.

Are there any other technology areas in Canada that need some TLC? Or is there a solution to our productivity "lag" that we haven't thought of? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.