MeasuringInnovation for our future   

Canadianswho make Zoom calls, hail an Uber or use a smartphone to doeither, are benefitting from innovation. Innovation -better ways of doing things - touches all aspects of our lives acrossall sectors of the economy.

A high-performingscience and innovation ecosystem depends on public research and developmentsupport. Thus, Alberta contributes nearly $1.7 billion dollars each year towardsresearch and development or approximately 0.5% of Alberta's gross domesticproduct to generate knowledge and develop noveltechnologies 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.

Howcan we improve our mark? 

Theshort 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. 

"Thisis a tremendous opportunity for Alberta Innovates to contribute to the designof a novel framework for Canada, and contribute to a national level discussionaround how innovation is measured" says Rajput, who was invited to join theproject and help shape the way innovation agencies in Canada do business. 

Alberta Innovates' involvement, the only western Canadian voice onthe panel, ensures policy makers and those within regional innovation ecosystemswill have perspectives from Alberta, considerations for not-for-profits, andinformation from the health sector to support companies and entrepreneurs.

TheHealth Innovation team at Alberta Innovates will pilot the CCIF. The team willhelp ensure Alberta entrepreneurs are aware of and a part of the evaluationframework. Feedback from participants will help the Conference Board test, informnext steps and improvements.

Whatproblem are we solving? 

Thenew framework will establish a more consistent evaluation criteriato help drive innovation, knowledge generation and commercialization,according to Harry Sharma, Director, Innovation and Technology at theConference Board of Canada.

"Theframework is really about identifying key strengths, weaknesses andcapabilities of companies, allowing both provincial and federal governments toprovide resources where needed to bridge the gaps," says Sharma.

Themeasures will help maturing companies enhance future success, assistAlberta Innovates in evaluating the ideas of entrepreneurs and the overall healthof 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."

Accuratemeasurement, 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.