An innovation agenda

I like David Brooks the NYT columnist.  This opinion piece he wrote talks about the need for an innovation agenda in the US. 

I think there are learnings here for New Brunswick – particularly his talk of promoting regional innovation clusters and government funding for R&D.  Imagine if New Brunswick spent 3% of its GDP on R&D.  That would be roughly $810 million per year (this is not just government – all spending in the economy on R&D).

We spend 3% of our GDP on potholes but almost nothing on R&D and we wonder why our economy has been stagnant for decades.

I have always wondered why politicians in New Brunswick have avoided supporting R&D like the plague (federal and provincial).  The feds spend less on R&D here than any other province in Canada (per capita) and so does the provincial government.

I guess raw politics dictates the potholes and other perceived here and now problems are more important.  We also haven’t had a lot of luck turning research into big obvious commercial wins like RIM or some new cancer drug.  But it seems to me that is chicken and egg.

By now you should know my opinion.  We need to have a sector-based approach to economic development.  This approach would have a wide variety of development elements such as workforce, taxation, promotion, physical infrastructure, cluster development, energy policy, R&D, etc.  An integrated approach – public and private sectors to make NB one of the best locations in North America to invest in [fill in the blank here].

R&D is an important part of this mix.

3 thoughts on “An innovation agenda

  1. Good post, and here I think you’d find a lot of support. R&D is essentially a way of saying ‘support education’, something the OECD has been saying Canada needs to do for years. I don’t often read Macleans, but in a waiting room had no choice and there was an article that basically said “in the future if you want to be in the middle class you MUST go to university”. Now, IF community colleges could really ramp it up that might be different, but in a sense they are right. It is really worrying to see kids just finish high school and immediately to into the work force, or even worse, not even finish high school.

    You can’t have research without researchers, and again, we live in one of the most technologically funded areas of Canada, but in basic health research, companies here have to go outside of Canada just to find people with ANY experience. That’s NOT good. A company I”m aware of that does both plant and animal gene therapies for resistance has a board that wants to dump the plant side-even though its currently the only part that makes any money. That’s how lucrative disease research CAN be.

    That again goes back to federal and provincial funding, but here again is a reminder of that research I did awhile back-that New Brunswick provides the LEAST funding for education of any atlantic province (per measure of the budget), so I suspect that would hold up for all of Canada. And this in a supposed bilingual province where its expected that people develop two languages.

    It IS a chicken and egg problem, because unfortunately at the federal level the feds are getting proposals not just from ‘regions’ and ‘municipalities’, but just INDIVIDUALS. So even if the province stepped up, the feds would just think “what, you want more cash to sink into the university system?” It’s definitely a problem, a BIG problem, in fact the biggest problem there is (even bigger than selling a public utility but there isn’t the interest that would even get a blogger to post on it daily:)

  2. Check out and see what Alberta has been doing with the Research and Innovation Council. At one point they were there own ministry, but are now part of the Advanced Education ministry.

    Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells has been on the R&D kick for years, and former Clerk of the PCO Kevin Lynch was a huge backer of the R&D and KBE initiatives.

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