Building a Nation of Innovators report
Building a Nation of Innovators report. Credit: ISED.

ISED Touts Innovation and Skills Plan in New 100 Page Report Ahead of Budget and Election

One of the pillars of the Liberal governments economic policies in its current mandate has been its innovation agenda. A new report outlines the foundation it hopes will lead to success in the years to come.

It is no coincidence that the Building a Nations of Innovators report was released this month. It precedes the last Liberal budget of its current mandate, and puts an important piece of the Liberals re-election platform front and centre.

While the Liberal government, as with recent past governments, struggles with large procurement programs and self-inflicted scandals, the innovation platform might just be one of their biggest talking points as they hit the re-election trail.

Regardless of which party is in power, one of the top issues, if not the top issue for each election is the economy. The question is, will the Liberal innovation agenda resonate with the public? The economic outcome of the investments won’t be measurable in any meaningful way for severals years to come.

While the space sector does get several mentions in the report, there’s only one full page devoted to it. That mention is on page 70 with the header Opportunities in the Space Sector.

It reads in part;

“Space provides the only vantage point from which it is possible to collect data about our planet on a global scale. Canada has only just begun to leverage the digital possibilities of space to connect populations in all regions of the country, to better understand and monitor climate change, to help the Canadian Armed Forces defend our security and sovereignty, to respond to and mitigate natural disasters, and to manage our natural resources. Canada can, and must, do a better job in unlocking the potential of its space sector for the benefit of Canadian businesses and society at large.”

Wonderful words, but the space community has repeatedly told the government to backup those words with a new space strategy and a funding plan to go along with it (That will be the focus of an upcoming pre-budget article).

The government has been making some space investments in targeted areas such as Earth observation. Companies like Advantech Satellite Networks, Creative Destruction Lab, exactEarth, and NorthStar have all received funding from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) ($53.5 total).

Then there’s the biggest gamble the government has taken on, the Superclusters. The government is putting $950M into five Superclusters, all of which have at least one company from the space sector.


ISED Innovation Report OECD Canada Science and Technology ranking
Credit: ISED.

The report

If you want a quick summary of Building a Nations of Innovators report just read the Executive Summary. It has all the talking points.

The reports main section is broken down into four areas;

  • People and Skills;
  • Building Ecosystems: Science, Technology and Superclusters;
  • Investment, Scale-up, and growing companies; and
  • Program Simplification and Reorganization.

Each one of these sections goes into some depth and provides dollar amounts of money either spent or allocated but not distributed yet. The report provides expected impacts and early results for each section.

People and Skills

Expected impacts and early results.

  • 1 MILLION STUDENTS & 53,000 TEACHERS – CanCode has reached 1 million students and 53,000 teachers, doubling its initial target of 500,000 students by March 2019.
  • 1 MILLION YOUTH A YEAR – PromoScience encourages 1 million youth a year to pursue interests and careers in STEM.
  • 11,500 PLACEMENTS – The Student Work Placement Program will provide 11,500 quality work- integrated learning opportunities by 2021 for post-secondary education students in STEM and business fields.
  • 8,000 PLACEMENTS – Mitacs has increased its work- integrated learning placements for post-secondary students and graduates from 2,450 in 2014–2015 to 8,000 in 2017–2018, and is on track to reach 10,000 a year by 2021–2022.
  • 600 INTERNSHIPS – Digital Skills for Youth aims to provide 600 internships to under-employed post-secondary graduates by March 2019.
  • 900 COMMUNITIES – Connect to Innovate has announced 180 projects that will connect rural and remote communities to the internet, and is on track to reach 900 communities.
  • $10 INTERNET PACKAGES – Connecting Families is working with the private sector to provide low-income families with $10 internet packages.
  • 50,000 COMPUTERS – Computers for schools is providing 50,000 computers over five years to eligible households.
  • 40,833 JOBS – Global Skills Strategy, Global Talent Stream: as of November 2018, 3,265 applications have been approved for high-skilled immigrants, creating 40,833 jobs and 9,732 paid co-op positions.

Building Ecosystems: Science, Technology and Superclusters

Expected impacts and early results.

  • 50,000 JOBS – The Innovation Superclusters Initiative is spurring growth, and is expected to create 50,000 good middle-class jobs across Canada.
  • $50 BILLION – The Innovation Superclusters Initiative is expected to grow Canada’s economy by $50 billion over the next 10 years.
  • $950 MILLION – The five superclusters represent more than 450 businesses, 60 post-secondary institutions, and 180 other participants who will match targeted investments, dollar for dollar, of up to $950 million over five years.
  • $4 BILLION FOR SCIENCE – Budget 2018 allocated $4 billion to support the work of researchers and provide them access to the state-of- the-art tools and facilities they need.

Investment, Scale-up, and growing companies

Expected impacts and early results.

  • 50,000 JOBS – SIF investments to date are expected to secure 50,000 jobs.
  • $795 MILLION – As of January 2019, SIF has announced 31 agreements, totalling $795 million in SIF contributions, which will leverage a total investment of $8.1 billion.
  • $1.5 BILLION – With funds leveraged from the private sector, the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative is expected to inject $1.5 billion into Canada’s risk capital market.
  • $2.3 BILLION – The Government has announced more than $2.3 billion to support clean technology, including the growth of Canadian firms and clean technology exports.
  • 8,000 COMPANIES – IRAP supports more than 8,000 high-potential firms a year in bringing their products and services to the global marketplace.

Program Simplification and Reorganization

Expected impacts and early results.

  • 420,000+ VISITS – Since its launch in January 2018, the Innovation Canada digital single window has received 420,000+ visits, helping to match businesses with the best fitting programs and services— all in under three minutes.
  • 450 HIGH-GROWTH FIRMS – Over 450 high-potential firms have enrolled in the AGS and accessed $350+ million in funding.
  • 776 CLIENTS MET – The Clean Growth Hub has met 776 clients since its inception in January 2018.
  • FEWER PROGRAMS WITH GREATER IMPACT – Budget 2018 announced the results of the horizontal review of business innovation and clean technology programs, increasing funding for innovation while reducing the number of separate programs by two-thirds.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 28 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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