Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Creating a culture of innovation

This morning I took part in a ceremony launching Peel Region’s new RIC Centre (Research, Innovation and Commercialization) in Mississauga. Mayor Hazel McCallion was there, along with the local MP, the chair of Peel Region, and the head of the Board of Trade.

The organizers showed their innovative-ness by inviting four local business people to help open the centre – all named Rick. There was Rick Drennan of the Mississauga Business Times, Richard Fine of RMF Manufacturing & Design, and Rick Holden of Best Buy (Witty) Insurance – and me.

I support resources such as the RIC Centre, which aims to connect inventors to resources, mentors and expertise. As I said in my brief remarks:

"In my experience, when innovation fails, it fails for one of four reasons:
* the inventor fell in love with his product;
* the business was undercapitalized;
* the marketing plan was ineffective, insufficient or non-existent;
* or the innovators failed to realize how long commercialization takes, and how many changes even the best products have to go through before they succeed.

The same problems recur, over and over again. And all of them can be solved by places such as the RIC Centre.”

But I also went off-script to respond to a few remarks made by previous speakers. For instance, Peel regional Chair Emil Kolb, who operates a family farm near Bolton, Ont., noted that the original farmers who pioneered Mississauga probably couldn't have imagined what goes on at a place like the RIC Centre.

I took issue with that, pointing out that the farmers I know are tremendous innovators and inventors. They are always tinkering with crops and seeds and fertilizers to find the best combinations. And they're constantly collaborating with other farmers to identify best practices. I believe that’s exactly the culture we're trying to recreate today!

A couple of speakers also criticized the shortage of venture capital in Canada. I pointed out that Canadian entrepreneurs have to take some of the blame for that. If we had all been better at commercialization, Canada’s venture capitalists would have made a lot more money over the past decade, and there would be a whole lot more capital to throw around today. Incubators such as the RIC Centre can help overcome these problems – but until they do, Canadian VCs can hardly be blamed for not throwing good money after bad.

I may never get invited back.

June 11 update: Click here for the writeup from the Mississauga News, which also published the photo below.
Joining Mayor Hazel McCallion are, from left, VP of Research at the University of Toronto Mississauga Ulli Krull, Financial Post journalist and speaker Richard Spence, Mississauga Business Times Editor Rick Drennan, MPP Mississauga-Streetsville Bob Delaney, Rick Holden of Best Buy (Witty) Insurance, Rick Fine of RMF Design, Peel Region Chairman Emil Kolb and Mississauga Board of Trade Chair Jake Dheer.

1 comment:

sred said...

One way to gain cash flow is to take advantage of government subsidies. Sometimes, Canadian companies are so focused on venture capital that they neglect to research subsidies like federal the SR&ED program, which can give you up to 41.5% on every dollar spent on eligible R&D expenses.