June 28, 2021

Optimizing innovation performance in Canada

Innovation is the most popular approach to addressing global challenges.  The question is how do we know that our innovation-related efforts are successful?  The answer is that we need to accurately measure our innovation response.

The Conference Board of Canada is the leading body that measures innovation performance for Canada and provinces in relation to international peers. The results are released biennially in an Innovation Report, which can be considered Canada’s gold-standard measurement tool.

Alberta Innovates is helping to lead the way in enhancing how innovation is measured in Canada. We have worked with the Conference Board and two other national partners to establish a Capability-Centred Innovation Framework (CCIF).

Alberta Innovates represents the sole Western perspective on this initiative, which is focused on gaining insight into key business capabilities, defining firm-level innovation success, and identifying firms capable of sustainable growth. The project has the potential to highlight strategies for increasing innovation capacity in the province and across the nation in a targeted way.

The CCIF will be leveraged to more accurately measure performance in the Innovation category of the Conference Board’s Report Card, an assessment of how well Canada meets the goal of creating a high and sustainable quality of life. Results of the Report Card across its nine measures are benchmarked against a group of 16 comparator countries as an indicator of Canada’s positioning globally.

The 2021 Innovation Report Card, released on June 28, 2021, shows consistent underperformance in Canada with an overall “C” grade.  However, Canada ranks 10th among 16 peer countries, up from 12th in 2018.  Alberta is assigned a “D” grade, which is consistent with our province’s results over the past seven years.  Alberta’s peers, Ontario and British Columbia, range between a “C” and “D,” respectively.

A low relative score doesn’t mean Alberta’s 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.  A consistent low overall Canadian score of “C,” and a range of “C” to “D” across the provinces, suggests that perhaps the current input-output measurement framework is revealing a major gap.

After past editions of the Conference Board’s Report Card indicated room for growth, Alberta Innovates has been taking dedicated action to foster innovation strength in the province, using its 100 years of experience gained as the province’s research and innovation agency established in 1921.

Alberta Innovates realized in 2018 there was a need to proactively engage with the Conference Board to address the low scoring. This led to a thought-leadership advisory group responsible for the creation and initial validation of the CCIF measures.

Dr. Sunil Rajput, Senior Business Partner of Health Innovation at Alberta Innovates and a member of the CCIF project advisory board, says that the new framework will help identify key strengths and weaknesses related to firm-level capabilities and inform governments to make more strategic investments to maximize sustainable benefits.

Alberta Innovates works with innovators from early stages all the way through to commercialization. Our programs are designed to address gaps that have been identified by low innovation scores in Conference Board reports.

“Innovation is vital to addressing unmet needs, global crises, or instabilities”, says Dr. Rajput. “Accurately measuring innovation enables jurisdictions to effectively change their approach to meet the needs of their innovation community and their citizens.”

Read the Conference Board of Canada’s 2021 report card.