Don't be fooled by "innovation nostrums"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yesterday's Globe and Mail contained an op-ed by David Naylor (President, University of Toronto) and Stephen Toope (President, University of British Columbia). Outlining seven "innovation nostrums," they argue that Canada's productivity gap can't be fixed by quick solutions. Rather, creating a national culture of innovation requires sustained investments and thorough planning. They highlight the role the social sciences and humanities can play, articulating how graduates from all disciplines can foster creativity and innovation.

In a letter sent to the editor, CFHSS President Noreen Golfman concurs with their conclusions:

It is refreshing to see our senior academic leaders challenging tired mantras. University of Toronto President David Naylor and University of British Columbia President Stephen Toope (Don’t swallow these nostrums – Aug. 30) are absolutely right in calling for a move from invention and commercialization to a culture of innovation, mobilizing the talent and ingenuity of every sector and discipline to close the country’s productivity gap. Social sciences and humanities graduates offer some of the best potential to close this gap, particularly as we move towards an increasingly digital economy driven by content rather than technology.  We need more programs and mentoring initiatives that encourage collaboration among academia, government, business and the voluntary sector. No single sector or discipline has all the answers for confronting today’s complex issues.



Federation News


I like the comments in Naylor and Toope's last paragraph of their op-ed, "So it seems logical that a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship should be promoted in all sectors of the economy, not least social agencies, non-profit enterprises, public administration, and postsecondary and health-care institutions." Innovation in social agencies, NGOs and our public institutions will require investments in social sciences & humanities research and training and then mobilizing that research knowledge and expertise by engaging with these sectors. SSHRC's new insight and connections Partnership Grants and networks like ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche will help to answer the call by Naylor and Troop and help fulfill Noreen Golfman's vision above.

David Phipps

I do not see how "closing the productivity gap" will solve Canada's or any other country's fundamental problems if it hastens economic and ecological collapse through the over-consumption of non-renewable resources. Perhaps the key innovation required is a re-definition of "productivity".