July 29, 2020

Understanding Alberta’s score on the Conference Board of Canada innovation report card

Measuring Innovation for our future   

Canadians who make Zoom calls, hail an Uber or use a smartphone to do either, are benefitting from innovation. Innovation – better ways of doing things – touches all aspects of our lives across all sectors of the economy.

A high-performing science and innovation ecosystem depends on public research and development support. Thus, Alberta contributes nearly $1.7 billion dollars each year towards research and development or approximately 0.5% of Alberta’s gross domestic product to generate knowledge and develop novel technologies that will power our economic resiliency.  

Despite these contributions, a recent Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) innovation report card scored Alberta a “D” compared to international peer jurisdictions. However, the low relative score doesn’t mean Alberta innovations or companies are inferior. Instead, it means Alberta is being outperformed by international peers in driving economic activity and realizing social benefits from its innovations.

How can we improve our mark? 

The short answer is, we don’t have enough evidence to know.  

Alberta Innovates senior business partner, Sunil Rajput, set out to learn why Alberta continues to be ranked poorly by the Conference Board, having earned a “D” or lower over the past six years. Rajput learned the Conference Board is reimagining the way innovation is scored in Canada through a project called the Capabilities Centred Innovation Framework (CCIF). The CCIF is meant to provide key insights into the business capabilities of Canadian firms, enhance our understanding of innovation success and help identify resilient companies capable of maintaining steady growth. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Alberta Innovates to contribute to the design of a novel framework for Canada, and contribute to a national level discussion around how innovation is measured” says Rajput, who was invited to join the project and help shape the way innovation agencies in Canada do business. 

Alberta Innovates’ involvement, the only western Canadian voice on the panel, ensures policy makers and those within regional innovation ecosystems will have perspectives from Alberta, considerations for not-for-profits, and information from the health sector to support companies and entrepreneurs.

The Health Innovation team at Alberta Innovates will pilot the CCIF. The team will help ensure Alberta entrepreneurs are aware of and a part of the evaluation framework. Feedback from participants will help the Conference Board test, inform next steps and improvements.

What problem are we solving? 

The new framework will establish a more consistent evaluation criteria to help drive innovation, knowledge generation and commercialization, according to Harry Sharma, Director, Innovation and Technology at the Conference Board of Canada.

“The framework is really about identifying key strengths, weaknesses and capabilities of companies, allowing both provincial and federal governments to provide resources where needed to bridge the gaps,” says Sharma.

The measures will help maturing companies enhance future success, assist Alberta Innovates in evaluating the ideas of entrepreneurs and the overall health of companies.

“The information provided by the CCIF will help Alberta Innovates, as a steward of public resources, support companies best positioned for success,” says Rajput. “It will also help us identify companies that hold future promise where perhaps strengthening opportunities can be offered that will close the gap between innovation and economic development.”

Accurate measurement, more evidence, better results 

The new measure of innovation will help determine areas where investment should occur, as well as where they shouldn’t. Alberta would be able to re-direct resources more strategically to advance the province as a whole and be more competitive internationally. 

The Conference Board has assembled a small advisory group made up of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED), National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CEDQ), and of course Alberta Innovates to pave the way forward.   

“I want to commend Alberta Innovates on partnering with the Conference Board on this innovation framework. Their contributions and participation ensures western Canadian views and realities will be incorporated into this new framework,” says Sharma. The project will be completed by the Fall of 2020 with the new CCIF expected around December 2020.

For more information about the CCIF, listen to the Shift podcast’s interview with Harry Sharma.

This story originally appeared in the July 2020 edition of Innovate Alberta’s digital newsletter, The Loop. Subscribe now.