A key impediment to innovation is a lack of knowledge of existing tools and processes that could benefit a company’s growth and development. Often these innovations are in fields that may have applicability but lie outside of a business’ immediate market area. In a highly competitive and global market place, Canadian companies have focused on getting products and services to market as quickly as possible, and spend little time tracking recent developments and emerging technology trends that may be applicable to them.
The philosophy has become – if it isn’t broken, why fix it? This approach can be hugely detrimental to small and medium sized businesses, and for industry leaders. Kodak, for example, filed for bankruptcy after a delayed transition from film to digital photography. The company wasn’t able to adapt to technology that developed at lightning-fast speed.
This is a wasted opportunity for Canadian companies and our innovation potential. A possible solution to this challenge is the creation of “pop up” innovation zones within post-secondary institutions with the support of the government. These zones would build on the concept of successful maker spaces. The pop ups, intended to be functional rather than show room facilities, would demonstrate the value of technologies to visitors, as they would see the worth of a new technology or process and be able to propose a small proof of concept project related to their company.
The project would involve students and faculty to operate the equipment, thus creating experiential learning opportunities for students while helping to ensure that curriculum reflects industry needs. Importantly, it would allow industry to test emerging technologies and processes using facilities and expertise already in place.
Would this work? We are confident the answer is a resounding yes. At Humber, we have seen the excitement and new ideas generated when we provide tours of our campus and facilities to prospective partners. We have seen that seeing is believing and that these tours often lead to new innovative products and services – many of which Humber students and faculty have been proud to help develop. Funding to create and allow these zones to stand independently and be available just-in-time to industry and experts would benefit Canada’s innovation potential.