Innovate where it counts: task force

Ontario should focus less on new-to-the-world inventions and more on innovations that are actually relevant in the market, says a provincial task force report.

TORONTO: Ontario should focus less on new-to-the-world inventions and more on innovations that are actually relevant in the market, according to a new report from the province’s Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress.

The government-created task force reports on Ontario’s competitiveness, productivity, and economic progress in relation to other regions.

Its ninth annual report, “Today’s innovation, tomorrow’s prosperity” found Ontario’s GDP per capita ranks seventh among a peer group of 13 prosperous international regions.

But among a set of 16 similar North American jurisdictions, the province continues to trail.

The province’s GDP per capita —a measure of the value created by workers and firms in Ontario from the human, physical, and natural resources in the province— trailed the median of the 16 North American jurisdictions by $6,900 in 2009.

“We are not leading the world in creating innovative products, services, and processes in our businesses and workplaces,” said Roger Martin, chairman of the task force and dean of the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Martin said businesses should invest in technology, from R&D to patents to adapting existing technology to their businesses.

Information and communication technology will be especially important, the report said, adding companies need to develop stronger management capabilities in their businesses.

The government has work to do as well, the report said.

“Our public policies are skewed toward creating science-driven inventions that are very important to our society, but we shouldn’t assume that much of this will lead to products and services that will respond to consumer needs and improve Ontario’s innovation capabilities,” Martin said.

The task force applauded recent provincial tax policy changes, including the introduction of the HST, as an initiative to stimulate business investment. It also encouraged further trade negotiations with the European Union and recommended that more trade deals be negotiated with China and other emerging economies.

Other priorities included:

  • Review usefulness of provincial policies and programs on incentives to attract business investments
  • Avoid incentives to attract new businesses to the province, as they don’t tend to produce economic results to justify the expense.
  • Build on changes in Ontario’s sales and corporate tax structures
  • Ensure special tax treatment for Labour Sponsored Investment Funds is ended
  • Consider a carbon tax as a better way to address carbon emissions and encourage appropriate green technology
  • Encourage federal efforts to expand international free trade agreements
  • Keep friendly pressure on US to resist protectionist sentiment