Big Idea: Creation of Sector Specific Innovation Accords

by Mike Moffatt & Hannah Rasmussen. Posted November 1, 2016


twitter_accordsIn June, Canada 2020 launched The Innovation Project, an initiative devoted to studying Canada’s innovation agenda – the risks, the opportunities, and key factors involved in making Canada a more innovative nation.

As part of this project, we asked Mike Moffatt, Senior Associate at Canada 2020 and Director at the Lawrence Centre at Western University’s Ivey Business School and Hannah Rasmussen, Director at Projection North and Professor at Western University’s Brescia College, to consider how to foster innovative growth in Canada. 

Moffatt and the Canada 2020 team traveled to eight cities across Canada to hold roundtable discussions with key stakeholders representing sectors ripe for transformation. We are grateful for the thoughtful discussion and time these roundtable participants gave the effort. While the sectors themselves were very different, common themes emerged: talent and immigration, availability of venture capital and Canadians’ adversity to risk.

From their research and these roundtables, Moffatt and Rasmussen developed 10 Big Ideas for Canada. Canada 2020 will be releasing an idea a day on our website leading up to our 3rd Annual Canada 2020 Conference: The Innovation Agenda.

Each idea is thoughtful and detailed, and Canada 2020 hopes they will spur discussion and debate on the topic as we continue to explore innovation in Canada.   

Big Idea: Creation of Sector Specific Innovation Accords

What is the idea?

The goal for this big idea is to ensure each sector in Canada has a coherent strategy to support innovation and that the federal government supports and participates in this strategy.

Recommendation: An innovation accord for key sectors of the Canadian economy should be created. These accords would promote a new relationship with the federal government and the particular sector and would facilitate policy coherence between levels of government and across departments, convening diverse stakeholders and leveraging funding. Additionally, an innovation accord would provide priorities, goals and measurements to determine sector success in innovation that results in economic inclusion and an enhancement of autonomy.

These innovation accords will focus on outcomes and practical commitments and consider areas such as policy design, funding arrangements and strengthening innovation within the sector.
The implementation of the innovation accords will be overseen by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED).

Each innovation accord will:

  • Identify common objectives in an innovation strategy.
  • Developaction-orientedplansforbothpartiestotheaccord.
  • Measureprogressappropriatelyforbothpartiestotheaccord.
  • Leverage funding from all levels of government to maximize support.
  • Foster healthy competition among provinces while being flexible/asymmetrical to fit provincial innovation strengths and needs.
  • Accelerate the federal goal of driving inclusive innovation.

At a minimum, we would recommend that the following sectors work with the federal government to create innovation accords:

  • Life Sciences and Health Care
  • Arts and Culture
  • Manufacturing
  • Agri-Food
  • Finance
  • Oil and Gas

Each accord represents a public commitment to be more open, transparent, consistent and collaborative in innovation. We believe that these accords will move the government and the sector towards greater mutual understanding and provide a framework within which innovation can be developed.

Recommendation: A working group should write each innovation accord with individuals from the Government of Canada and the sector. The members should be selected to reflect a cross-section of federal government departments and the sector. To ensure that a broad range of viewpoints within the sector are heard, consultations should be held.

These innovation accords will not compel the Government of Canada or the associated sector to work together; rather, they outline the values and principles that will govern the relationship when they choose to work together.

Who will be responsible for administering the idea?

The implementation of the innovation accords will be overseen by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED)

What mechanisms for accountability or measurement can be put in place for the idea?

These innovation accords will focus on measurable outcomes and practical commitments and consider areas such as policy design, funding arrangements and strengthening innovation within the sector. The development of measurements and accountability mechanisms will be a part of each accord.

What failures is the idea trying to solve?

Regulatory Failure: From an innovation perspective, the overarching goal of the innovation accords is to ensure that policy objectives of both the government and the industry sectors avoid conflicting priorities as much as possible and encourage the design of policies that encourage positive conse- quences for innovation. These accords will allow stakeholders in each sector and the government to work through regulatory failures stemming from a lack of coherence.

What are the potential benefits of the idea and what are the costs?

Benefits: Coherence would be created in Canada’s overall approach to innovation within each sector. This increased coherence allows Canada to compete globally in innovation in key sectors by creating a sense of stability and attainable goals.

Costs and Risks: A risk with these innovation accords is that industries could see them as a way to ensure the government enacts policies and approaches that allow the industry to make more profits without actually creating innovations, or creating innovation that decreases economic inclusion and autonomy. These risks can be avoided if there is careful consideration in the creation of the respon- sibilities for both sides of the accord and that overall progress is measured. Another risk is that these accords are simply words on a piece of paper and never meaningfully put into practice.

Will the Idea increase economic inclusion and/or enhance autonomy? If so, how?

Economic Inclusion: Economic inclusion should be an expressed goal of each accord. The accords should contain a section on how both the government and the industry will create wealth and employment opportunities for marginalized Canadians.

Autonomy: Where possible, the accords should consider finding ways to increase the control individuals and communities have over their economic outcomes, though in most cases we anticipate there is little the accords can do to address the issue.