Category Archives: Innovation

2013 Top Innovative Firms

BCG released their 2013 Most Innovative Companies survey results and their list of the top 50 firms (registration required to access). Focus is on large multinational brands. Several of the main observations.

Five Key Attributes of Innovation Leaders

The survey identifies five key attributes that the leading innovative companies adopt noting that strong firms adopt all five. The five key attributes are:

  1. Top management commitment to innovation as a competitive advantage.
  2. Firms leverage their IP in both defensive and offensively to strengthen their competitive advantage.
  3. Firms effectively manage a portfolio of innovative initiatives.
  4. Firms have strong customer focus.
  5. Firms insist on strong innovation processes that leads to strong performance.

Transportation Industries

The report observed the advancement of many of the leading automotive firms in the rankings as the firms strive for higher fuel efficiency, higher safety standards, and mobile device integration. Notably aircraft and aircraft engine innovators who are also striving for higher fuel efficiency in air transportation were not mentioned. Although Boeing and GE makes the list at #13 and #32 respectively Airbus and Pratt & Whitney do not make the list.

Canadian Industries

There are no leading Canadian brands on the list although several top 50 firms access Canadian knowledge talent with branch plant operations for example – Google (#3), IBM (#6), GE (#10), P&G (#23), and Shell (#26). Canada’s weak product development mindset and poor independent innovation performance remain underlying problems. Shell and ExxonMobil were the only energy leaders making the list.

Key Innovation Performance Trends

Several key innovation performance trends were observed:

  1. 85% of strong innovators expect to spend more on innovation and new product development than last year.
  2. Leaders are focusing and making smarter investments.
  3. Fewer firms reported changing directions once started.
  4. Firms are improving their innovation process performance.
  5. Judgment of senior management for determining which ideas to move to product development was adopted by two thirds of firms.
  6. Strong innovators listen to customers.
  7. The importance of firms leveraging their IP for competitive advantage was growing.

Innovation Investment Behaviour by Large (>$100M) Firms

Insight into the innovation investment behaviour by large (>$100M) firms was recently revealed in a report by Accenture who surveyed 519 firms in US, UK, and France representing Banking, Capital, Retail, Electronics, High Tech, Health Providers, and Consumer Goods & Services. Data was provided comparing innovation performance in 2009 with data from 2012.

Important observations from 2012 were:

  • Innovation as a Strategy – Fully 70% of the firms responded that innovation was one of their top 5 priorities with 18% being the top priority. 44% of manufacturers reported that innovation was extremely important to respond to “persistent change”. Only 34% firms believe they have a well defined innovation strategy in spite of 70% reporting that innovation was a top 5 priority.
  • Innovation Investment Mix / Emphasis – 48% new product or service, 26% new process or business model (down from 30% in 2009), and 24% improvement or modification of an existing service (up from 17% in 2009) leading to the conclusion that large firms are taking a more cautious approach to innovation than 2009.
  • Investment Levels – 51% firms responded that they increased funding devoted to new products and services with 74% of manufacturing firms increasing innovation investment levels.
  • Innovation Performance – Only 18% believe their innovation investments are delivering competitive advantage. Only half of management from the large firms feel their innovation system is effective. Better performance was achieved by firms with formal innovation systems in place with 51% of such firms being first-to-market as opposed to only 17% with those with no such system.
  • Innovation Shortfalls –  46% firms have become more risk adverse (shying away from breakthrough innovation and preferring incrementalism).  Firms with formal innovation systems tend to pursue breakthrough innovations more than incrementalism and report 50% more likely to see innovation deliver competitive advantage.
  • Challenges to Innovation – 30% firms noted predicting future trends as a challenge. 27% firms reported achieving cost containment as a challenge. 26% firms reported securing ongoing budget support as a challenge. 26% reported leveraging new technology as a challenge. 24% reported transforming new ideas into marketable products and services as a challenge.

Not reported though were growth performance over this period for firms with formal innovation systems to determine if such firms that have adopted innovation as a strategy are edging ahead of firms that have not. The data provide interesting benchmarks to compare with SMEs firm populations.

Innovation Diffusion From University R&D

R&D in Canada is conducted primarily in universities as opposed to industry. In fact Canada is an outlier in OECD countries in this respect. Canadian industry on the other hand is below average on R&D spending. This situation has created a significant up hill battle to move investments in university R&D to industry supply chains delaying economic benefits years into the future. Canada’s time to market performance commercializing new technology is far too long. Why is this and what are the implications for Canada?

Industry Supply Chain Innovation Diffusion

Outcomes from university R&D moves through two slow innovation diffusion processes: research commercialization (measured by Technology Readiness Levels); and industry supply chain adoption. Both innovation diffusion processes can be illustrated by this diagram:

Industry Cluster Innovation

From an industry supply chain perspective products purchased and used by consumers, businesses, or governments are sold by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) at the “system level” in the top right. Whether they be cars, aircraft, smart phones, refrigerators, the product is an assembly of parts purchased from a supply chain (into the diagram) and constructed in a unique way by the OEM to satisfy customer needs. The assembly of parts are based on building blocks starting with materials, components, subsystems, up to the complete system (seen as series of steps in the diagram). Software may be embedded at the component, subsystem, and/or system level. New technology can be leveraged for competitive advantage in all levels of the product hierarchy in an industry.

Industry Supply Chain Adoption

Product industries led by competing OEMs are supported by supply chains typically composed of four tiers below the OEM: Tier 1 major system integrators; Tier 2 components & sub assembly suppliers; Tier 3 machine shop service providers; and Tier 4 materials & special process service providers. Assembly and integration is performed at each level in a value adding process starting with basic materials. Examples of industry supply chains include aerospace, automotive, ships, and consumer electronics.

Product development, process/manufacturing development, and continuous improvement is performed at each level in support of business strategy and competitive forces. New technologies compete with existing proven technologies to demonstrate improved performance, quality, reduced cost, and time savings. Each tier therefore presents an adoption period before new technologies are accepted into high volume production and customer use. Customers in this case not only means the end user of the product but also each successive tier as the customer for the next lower tier. Supply chain adoption time is therefore based on development, sales, demonstration, and qualification, and experience from in-service use stages lasting 3-5 years at each tier on average although the adoption time can be much longer in conservative industries and shorter in hyper competitive industries.

Supply chains today are global with some national or regional industry clusters where local supply chains have agglomerated at several levels in the past. Canada’s industry supply chains are largely fractured except in certain industries where the country has invested heavily and developed world class “system level” product companies that can exert market pull to the develop local supply chain. Leading examples are Bombardier for commercial aircraft and rail or Blackberry for mobile devices. Unfortunately Canada also has difficulty maintaining a lead as world class “system level” product companies fall from grace such as Nortel or as Blackberry slips.

Research Commercialization

Any part that makes up the end product is based on existing technology with occasional introduction of new technology in hopes of achieving a competitive advantage. Improved product performance, quality, or cost can be achieved through technology advances for any tier in the supply chain. Firms at any level of the supply chain can secure sustained competitive advantage if they take steps to protect their new technology by patents.

Technology advances in Canada are primarily based on research conducted in universities and follows a long road to commercialization as it passes through a series of readiness levels such as the technology readiness level scale illustrated below:

Technology Readiness Levels

The technology readiness scale reflects the notion that the earlier stages are big “R” with small “d” with the emphasis moving to small “r” and big “D” in the latter stages. New technology is formulated and validated in the research lab before moving to prototyping in simulated environments and the real world.  Uncertainty and risk is reduced at each level until ultimately the technology is proven in the real world.

New technology can take 8-10 years to move through the technology readiness scale. Technology complexity and novelty can add time to this time delay. There are few short-cuts although firms that perform more of the steps internally have better control of the commercialization process, with fewer changes of hands, and achieve faster outcomes. Unfortunately the trend in most developed economies is that firms did perform much of the process internally are outsourcing the earlier research steps.

Research Commercialization Chasm

Lab researchers are unfortunately often far from the market pull of the product end user particularly in today’s global economic structure leading to a “commercialization chasm” as illustrated below:

Commercialization Chasm

University research focuses on lab work which is effective in bringing ideas to proof-of-concept stage. In today’s complex, fast changing world the jump to the real world is very large where lab prototypes are far from ready particularly for demanding operating environments or discerning/fickle consumer markets.

A key problem today is that Canadian universities are highly disconnected with industry except in a few rare cases. While geographic separation from Canadian industry clusters or international supply chains is a major source of commercialization delay the leading delay remains due to the commercialization chasm.

Implications For Canada

The implications of long diffusion time from university research commercialization and supply chain adoption are significant for Canada and the leading reasons behind the countries poor return on R&D investment. Should Canada’s economic growth begin to stagnate renewed focus on commercialization performance will take center stage as it is today in Europe and US.

As a resource based economy new technology in materials research is an obvious choice to drive growth. Unfortunately material research has the longest path to travel to commercialization because it must progress through both the technology maturity scale and be adopted by industry supply chains in Canadian clusters and global supply chains. The “bottom up” approach to commercialization will not yield timely return in investment to support economic growth.

A “top down” approach could be taken but Canada has few “system level” product world leaders to pull from Canada’s university R&D investments and bring alignment to fractured supply chains / clusters. While there is a strong desire for Canadian suppliers to access global supply chains a coherent and integrated industrial strategy amongst the levels of government and plethora of funding programs does not appear to exist. Canada’s small domestic market size and regional politics continue to hinder supply chain efficiency and effectiveness sufficient to align with a dispersed university R&D approach. Canada must get better at developing industrial strategy to maximize return on investments in developing competitive supply chains even if the top supply chain levels are foreign. The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) and national energy strategy debate are attempts at forming several new coherent and aligned strategies where none exist today but other industries would benefit such as agriculture, food processing, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and clean energy. The importance of leveraging national industrial strategy to export trade for a country that depends on exports for its prosperity cannot afford to be lost in the regional political debate.

Canada’s university spin-off performance could be better. Simulation technology has advanced dramatically in recent years and pilot prototype facilities are increasingly available the cost for these stages are often not included in Canadian R&D funding programs. University spin-offs and start-ups often cannot obtain funding for these stages which is a leading reason underlying the “valley of death” barrier experienced by many Canadian start-ups.  This simulation/prototyping shortfall therefore presents a major barrier or “commercialization chasm” further delaying adoption by industry supply chains. Recent restructuring and repurposing of Canada’s National Research Council is directed at solving this problem but Canada remains weak in developing clear industry strategy to align all the players for better economic outcomes.

The Fuzzy Front End of New Value Creation

The ‘Fuzzy Front End’ of business is a firm’s new value creation nursery. The ‘Fuzzy Front End’ is the process that starts with the identification of an unmet customer need and the convergence on the optimum solution that a firm can repeatably produce and sell profitably in new or competitive markets. It is also the least understood, most unpredictable, and uncertain business operating process. Firm’s that do this well exploit the new value creation process for sustained growth and new sources of competitive advantage. Firm’s that don’t have an effective new value creation process struggle to survive. Risk adverse managers avoid strategic options that involve business investments in the ‘Fuzzy Front End’.

A key question for management then is how to setup and efficiently/effectively operate a new value nursery that reliability generates sustained growth and new sources of competitive advantage for the firm?

The Fuzzy Front End

The ‘Fuzzy Front End’ is where new opportunities are born, developed, assessed, nurtured, and begin their life as a source of value for the firm. New opportunities are born when an unmet customer need is identified. Often vague or poorly articulated ideas, the unmet customer need requires further development to clarify the new opportunity. Once clarified, a multi-functional team of specialists comprising marketing, product engineering, and designers set about to develop a solution to satisfy the unmet customer need in terms of price, quality, performance, and other appropriate characteristics. The ‘Fuzzy Front End’ is fuelled by creativity, innovation, insight, and customer awareness.

An efficient/effective ‘Fuzzy Front End’ requires the integration of marketing, product development, and business processes. While marketing processes are well understood product development and engineering is often not well understood. The lean engineering framework provides a repeatable process for product engineering to align with the marketing process. Together integrated marketing/lean engineering framework forms an innovation process.  The challenge in achieving an efficient/effective ‘Fuzzy Front End’ rests in the fact that the start and end points are subject to ambiguity. The ambiguity in start and end points is what differentiates the ‘Fuzzy Front End’ process from all other repeatable business processes. Understanding the nature of the start and end points is a critical first step in setting up an efficient/effective new value nursery.

Ambiguous Start Point

Viewed in the context of the lean engineering framework the start point for the ‘Fuzzy Front End’, the unmet customer need, is subject to ambiguity in that a priori the firm can’t be certain that the need is valid or even exists. Sources of ambiguity in the unmet customer need include unstated wants, values, or needs that the customer did not even know that had because no product exists currently in the market today.

Timothy Schipper and Mark Swets in their book Innovative Lean Development say that the goal at the starting point is to express stated/unstated customer needs “accurately and in a form that the design team can understand and directly apply to the project….and this requires a method that allows the team to use the same vocabulary as the users when expressing the values that the solution must apply. The method must also expose the gaps between the problems and potential solutions.”  Schipper and Swets see the ‘Fuzzy Front End’ as a process of closing the user gaps.

Ambiguous End Point

The end point, convergence on an optimum solution, involves decisions, trade-offs, and selection from amongst multiple (if-not infinite) alternatives. The resulting optimum solution is also subject to ambiguity in that a priori the firm can’t sure that the solution with be desired by customers. Sources of ambiguity leading to the convergence on an optimum solution include what price the customer is willing to pay, what combination or set of features hits the customer’s sweat spot, what technologies and building blocks should be selected to form the product, how the product should be manufactured, and how the product should be delivered and services along the entire product life-cycle.

The Process In-Between

The ‘Fuzzy Front End’ process between the ambiguous start and end points is knowledge based work that involves risk, uncertainty, novelty, experimentation, complexity, creativity, and non-routine work. As much as possible the goal is to establish an effective/efficient process although at the detail level may not be as repeatable as operations execution processes that exist in production or service. Various lean product development methods are available for an effective/efficient ‘Fuzzy Front End’ process.

Canada’s Industrial Strategy Debate

The topic of Canadian industrial strategy is getting some new air time.  Discussion has been triggered by a paper The Resurgence of Industrial Policy and What It Means For Canada by Dan Ciuriak and John M. Curtis and recently commented on by Terence Corcoran in the Financial Post.

In a previous post  the lack of industrial strategies was discussed a potential cause factor for Canada’s low innovation performance due to the misalignments between national strengths, R&D, and industry.

This post continues this discussion given recent debate in the press but leads to the need for a national vision to really resolve the industrial strategy debate. As Lewis Carroll said “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” which seems to be the path Canada is on at the moment.

Framing The Industrial Strategy Debate and The Spectre of Social Unrest

The industrial strategy debate can easily be derailed by various extreme views such as nationalism, fear mongering, anti-globalization, etc so how the debate is framed matters if agreement is ever to be reached. For example, one can detect the fear in developed economies from the rise of Asian economies that is just below the surface. The economic arguments should not be framed as re-slicing the same global economic pie with developed economies getting less and Asian more rather the debate in this case should be framed as one of enlarging the global economic pie with growing the global middle class in BRIC and emerging countries.

Re-shoring movement is another simmering issue which hopes to reverse the flow of manufacturing jobs lost to off shoring over the last decade. For example the Society of Manufacturing Engineers has a program called Take Back Manufacturing to bring visibility to this issue. The re-shoring debate is picking up momentum particularly in jurisdictions that have relied on manufacturing.

One can’t deny though that although developed open economies are far from total collapse today one emergent issue not mentioned in the report and why countries in the EU in particular may be relooking at industrial strategy is the very real potential for social unrest given prolonged weak growth.  Europe is already starting to see the emergence of a lost generation.  While free markets are preferred capitalism does create winners and losers. Industrial strategy is insurance against losing, falling behind, and the social implications. What the last 100 years of capitalism has taught us is that if a country slides from a winner to becoming a loser, unemployment swells, a lost generation forms social unrest soon follows. The re-emergence of industrial strategy may simply be a hedge by governments (Japan, Germany, France, US, etc) who need to avoid the potential for social unrest.

Why Canada Needs Industry Strategies

In Canada, the investment in the oil sands will likely reduce in the medium term GDP and growth will slow and unemployment increase unless other industry sectors pick up. Canada’s economy depends on export trade to grow because of our small economy.  GDP growth from NAFTA stalled a decade ago so the new free trade agreements are positive moves to better access global markets. To export firms need to be large enough to have the resources to develop international markets which is expensive and takes time. 98% of Canadian firms are SMEs. Canada is not growing enough global scale businesses. Canadian gazelles growth slows after five years as reported by Deloitte. Global scale businesses require several decades to grow.  Industrial strategy should enable more bang for the buck from innovation to support growing firms to compete internationally.

Our university education & research system is great but there are not enough high value jobs in industry to absorb the number of students graduating and fully capture the economic benefits of science & technology and innovation investments that are disjoint and spread thin. The so called skills mismatch hotly debated now with the shift of our economy to resource based reflects the fact that the university education system is not geared to a resource economy but rather an advanced industrial economy.

Alignment – The Benefit Industrial Strategies Bring

Notwithstanding long run macroeconomic trends the efficiency of Canadian economic development from innovation investments has been undermined by flip flopping due to changes in political power, departmental agenda conflicts, regional in-fighting, loss of government industrial sector knowledge, and a national deficiency in ability to commercialize ideas. These effects have been destroying value by starting, stopping, changing, and restarting innovation support. Canada needs to dampen these effects to gain the following benefits:

  • Align innovation efforts from all levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal),
  • Alignment between industry, academic, NRC, and government R&D investments which requires a long run view to make the right investment choices – such as recent changes at the NRC,
  • Alignment maximizes value for limited tax dollars going towards innovation, economic development / industrial development,
  • Long term stability to allow clusters to continue to grow and private sector innovation to drive cluster agglomeration and R&D investments to build on each other,
  • Secure the returns from new defence procurement investments targeting key technology areas,
  • Framework for targeting FDI efforts that feed innovation momentum, and
  • Enable Canadian businesses to grow large enough to compete internationally.

Strategic versus Non-Strategic Industries

Although wishful proponents of non-strategic investment may pitch an idea as ‘strategic’ in hopes of gaining an edge there are industries that actually should be designated as strategic. This issue requires honest debate, dialogue, leadership, and long term national vision while avoiding undue influence for agendas that can harm this process. In the presence of globalization nations still have a right and governments an obligation to facilitate this debate and decide what is best for their countries and their citizens. Is this protectionism or simply looking out for the best interests of Canada?

The closest thing Canada has to a stated list of priority areas is the 2007 Science and Technology Strategy where four areas were identified as important for the national interest: environmental; natural resources and energy; health and related life sciences; and information and communication technologies. The report Beyond the Horizon recently proposed that Aerospace and Space be added to these four because of the prominence of this industry sector to the economy overall.

Defence is often touted as ‘strategic industry’ because national security and sovereignty should not be exposed to the risks of a disrupted global supply chain or foreign state interests.  Defence has been a recent focus of Public Works Government Services Canada where there are economic grounds for fostering innovation and maximizing the return from government defence purchases. The often forgotten story behind Silicon Valley is good example of the misconceptions about its history and role government defence investments had in creating the cluster over many decades positioning it to capture the microelectronics and information technology wave.

Building on the four priority science & technology areas, aerospace and space, and defence, two other areas are worthy of consideration: resource value added and food processing/agriculture. With the Canadian economy shifting dramatically to a resource based economy there seems to be a growing recognition that rather than exporting raw materials that Canada should develop a resource value added industrial strategy. With a growing world population Canada has a strong role to play in feeding the world.

Industrial strategies still need to be synchronized with industry cycles and adjust in response to changing macroeconomic, technological, and security environments but by targeting strategic industries the country gains a strong foundation for entire economy in the long run fuelled by aligned innovation to remain globally competitive. Perhaps a good test for a strategic industry is one that enables a country to continue to function within reasonable bounds providing its’ citizens with the necessities for living and security in the presence of a failure in globalization. Beyond this it is really a question of what level of prosperity and wealth the nation intends to reach, maintain, or not drop below.

This leads though to the need for a national vision for the country that can enlighten the debate as to which industries are strategic versus non-strategic in Canada. What is the vision for Canada in the next 20, 50, or 100 years? If we don’t know where we are going how do we know we are taking the right steps to get there.

Millennials View On Innovation

Deloitte recently conducted a survey of millennials (born 1982 or later) and their views on innovation. The survey was conducted in 18 countries including developed, BRIC, and developing countries with a sample population of 4982 people.

The study is interesting as it illustrates how the next generation of leadership differs from the current with respect to innovation, how local societal challenges are seen as drivers for innovation, how governments in some countries are holding back (or unable to fully establish conditions for) positive change, and the millennials view of value of competition in solving social challenges.

Global Millennial View

With respect to innovation the key views of global millennials are:

  • 78% of millennials believe innovation is essential for business growth;
  • 71% view innovations from business directly help to improve society;
  • Innovation is seen as one of the top three purposes of business along with improving society and generating profits;
  • Top six challenges facing society: resource scarcity (#1); inflation (#2); ageing populations (#3); unemployment (#4); social unrest (#5); and climate change (#6);
  • Top four business performance measures beyond financial terms were: employee satisfaction and retention (#1); customer/client satisfaction (#2); contribution to local communities (#3); and innovation (#4);
  • Sectors most in need of innovation were: government (#1); energy & resources (#2); and consumer business (#3);
  • Tomorrow’s innovators will be characterized by: creativity & design (#1); academic/intellectual ability (#2); ability to challenge technical skills (#3); being entrepreneurial (#4); and knowledge of specific ideas and techniques (#5);
  • 66% say innovation key to making the firm an employer of choice with 60% saying they work for an innovative employer;
  • 95% view it to be acceptable to make a profit that benefits society.

Gap in Creating Conditions Fostering Innovation

The largest gaps in the conditions seen as most important to foster innovation as viewed by the global millennials are in order of the gap size (# of most important condition):

  • Encourage & reward idea generation & creativity (tied #4);
  • Provide employees with ‘free time’ that they can dedicate to learning (tied #6);
  • Leadership encourages idea sharing regardless of seniority (#1);
  • Promote openness and the freedom to challenge (#7);
  • Commitment to successfully advancing innovative ideas (tied #4);
  • Strong inspirational leadership (tied #6);
  • Clear vision for the future (#2);
  • Encourage both formal & informal learning (tied #5);
  • Commitment to continual development/improvement internal processes (#3);
  • Commitment to continual development/improvement of products & services (tied #5).

These observations suggest that there is a gap between the priorities of current business leaders and the next generation beyond the typical focus of most business innovation on process and product improvement. Millennials see that their ideas are not being heard and they are not being given the opportunity to develop their own ideas to drive social good. This was also reflected in the views that it was easier to be innovative if you work by yourself than a large business and new businesses are seen as more innovative.

Barriers To Innovation

The top barriers to innovation viewed by global millennials are:

  • Lack of Money / investment / financial pressure (22%);
  • Internal culture / attitudes / stuck in ways / inertia (20%);
  • External economy, government etc bureaucracy / organizational (12%);
  • Poor leadership / management / lack of vision (10%);
  • Skill shortages no incentives / low pay (8%);
  • Poor working practices / lack of teamwork (8%);
  • Time / general pressure (5%);
  • Lack of creativity (2%).

Global millennials commented on the internal barriers, bureaucracy, ‘old school’ attitudes, as well as cultural restrictions on thinking that was holding back firms from innovating.

Solving Societies Top Challenges

The key take away from the survey suggests that global millennials see business as a force for social good, innovation as important to solving the world’s biggest societal challenges but still aligned with profit motive.

Necessity as the mother of invention was clear in the data from BRIC and developing countries. The degree of urgency behind the need for social good was illustrated with a very striking tendency for BRIC or developing countries such as South Africa to see innovation as very urgent whereas developed countries to be below the average on many measures.

The views of the top challenges facing society was also very different depending on the country with inflation being a big concern in Asia and US, ageing population in Japan/China, unemployment in Europe, and social unrest in Germany/Russia. This suggests in a globalized world that the perceived societal needs are very local/regional which has big implications on global and export firm market entry strategy looking to expand into BRIC or developing markets.

Finally global millennials view collaboration as important and business competition as actually hindering the environment for solving the biggest societal challenges.  The collaboration of businesses with one another was seen as the most likely method to succeed in solving societal challenges with collaboration with government, NGO, and universities as less successful but still better than direct business competition.

Innovation Skills Profile 2.0 Released

The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre For Business Innovation has released Innovation Skills Profile 2.0 (ISP 2.0) that define an individual’s skills, attitudes, and behaviours that contribute to an organization’s innovation performance.

The innovation skills profile is available in a condensed form to make it easy to build into performance management systems, have discussions with employees, employees to self assess, and clarify expectations if as a business you want to adopt innovation as a strategy.

Skills are organized under four main categories:

  • Creativity, Problem Solving, and Continuous Improvement Skills;
  • Risk Assessment and Risk-Taking Skills;
  • Relationship Building and Communication Skills; and
  • Implementation Skills.

Subheadings also group skills by how individuals should ‘act and contribute’ and ‘manage and support others’.

Overall a great tool to clarify employee expectations if a business has adopted innovation as a strategy and is intended to complement broader innovation initiatives focusing on innovation supportive cultures, structure, processes, and leadership.

Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance

Today I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Dr Emilson Silva from the Alberta School of Business on Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) as part of the Eric Geddes breakfast series.

COSIA was created in 2012 to bring the benefits of collaboration between oil sands producers and other parties to solving Canada’s Oil Sands environmental challenges. Although relatively new COSIA is quite unique in how alliance members have agreed to share intellectual property and knowledge previously developed from over $700M R&D prior individual investments and to collaborate on R&D moving forward in four key oil sands environmental areas: water, tailings, land, and green house gases. Dr Silva is researching the economic rationale underlying COSIA and how Canada, oil producers, regulators, NGOs, and the environment will win in the long run.

From the perspective of innovation, COSIA is a great example of how collaboration can be leveraged for solving large and difficult problems, and in this case, those charged with highly emotive aspects, through a scientific/engineering approach. Although the activities of COSIA may not be widely known it is worth visiting the COSIA website to appreciate the scope and novelty in their program going forward.

Early History of Silicon Valley

Anyone interested in understanding the early history of Silicon Valley should visit Steve Blank’s blog under Secret History.  He has posted a recent you tube presentation summary and copy of the slides.

The story provides a compelling view of how military technology development and funding investment during the cold war built on existing industrial strengths in the area before the Venture Capital industry had fully formed.   I don’t believe this early history story is understood when countries/regions look to replicate the success of silicon valley.

The story also illustrates the importance that early catalysts (key individuals, ready funding, labs, universities) can have to forming a thriving integrated innovation ecosystem.    Very difficult to recreate these conditions today.

Canadian Start-Up Funding For Successful Market Entry

Toronto’s MaRS accelerator recently released a great summary of practical advice for Canadian start-ups seeking funding for their start-up and in particular looking at VCs from the US or abroad.

They contend that Canadian start-up company success is “closely correlated with their breaking outside of their regional boundaries and getting closer to their end markets” and provide some of the best data I have seen to understand US VC investment trends in Canada.  The article also compares US and Canadian VCs and identified the top three developmental challenges of Canadian VCs that are hindering fast growth Canadian start-ups: follow-on funding; sector depth; and qualified talent pool.

The study also suggests that now is a good time to look for VC investments from the US.   The article identifies US VCs that have been the most active investing in Canadian start-ups.