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Collaborations, partnerships and innovation for impact

Question:What more can be done to cement Canada's place as a leader in social entrepreneurship?
on 09/19/2016 1474313214
Canada is not currently a leader in the social entrepreneurship space. As with all types of entrepreneurship, Canadian policies and programs must exis .... Read more

Canada is not currently a leader in the social entrepreneurship space. As with all types of entrepreneurship, Canadian policies and programs must exist to incent investment in entrepreneurial projects, including those that address issues of social importance. Organizations that are applying or contributing their resources to help make a positive social impact and those that contribute to building innovative solutions should be incented and rewarded for doing so.


While the video game industry exists primarily to create entertainment products, a number of the innovations developed in the sector can, and have, been utilized to advance research and innovation in other sectors, including health, which have a profound social impact. In essence, the tools developed for entertainment now have serious applications in robotics, sports, physical and mental health treatments (to manage anxiety disorders, depression, grief and PTSD with war veterans).


A recent example is the collaborations between Ubisoft Montreal, McGill University, and Amblyotech to tackle the problem of amblyopia, or more commonly known as “lazy-eye.” The condition affects three per cent of children internationally and occurs when the brain favours one eye over the other. The inspired video game Dig Rush, played on a tablet with 3D glasses encourages active focusing and is thought to be five times more effective than the current treatment option of eye-patching.


As a driver of social innovation, games have served as invaluable tools in education, helping kids and adults learn the skills needed to participate in the innovation economy. Today, Canada can also boast an active group of academics playing a role in pushing the boundaries of games to new areas. The University of Waterloo’s Games Institute is using games research and technology and applying them to non-game situations, a practice commonly known as gamification.


The Games Institute is working with partners such as FlourishiQ to research games and gamification techniques to engage the users of the company’s wearable device in establishing daily insights on wellness data, sleep and other physiological data that can be monitored to improve quality of life. Gamification techniques are being used in games to help users find safe spaces in urban environments while another game, Spirit 50, incentivizes exercise for older adults as they engage with technology. The UpSWinG project in development with collaborators at McGill University use game techniques to engage policy stakeholders in solutions for improving sustainable water governance.


If Canada is to remain a leader in innovation, more must be done to focus our efforts on building up the resource that is primarily responsible for innovation — talent/labour. There already exists a global race to drive innovation forward by obtaining the best and brightest talent. to drive innovation forward and create the products and services that change the way we live, work and play. We need to ensure that our industries and University have the policy tools needed to compete on this truly global battleground. The ability to lay claim to those innovators is the only way to compete with other innovation nations around the world. Canada must develop an immigration framework that allows the seamless and efficient movement of highly skilled workers in the technology fields.


But targeted immigration isn’t enough. A domestic digital skills training strategy is also key to our continued success. How countries arm their future workers with the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) skills to compete in a global and innovation driven economy will mark the difference between a country that falls behind and a country that prospers and thrives.


Other jurisdictions, like the United Kingdom, France and the US already have substantial infrastructure and frameworks to support social entrepreneurship and innovation including policies, legislation, funding and programming, which is available to all sizes of companies and individuals at various stages in their careers that engage in social entrepreneurship, whether directly or indirectly.


We encourage the Government to review global solutions in place at present, and consider ways to learn from the strengths of these programs to create and implement a diverse set of programs, incentives and opportunities for Canadians and companies in Canada to innovate and contribute to advancing socially impactful innovations across all sectors and communities.

Credit: Entertainment Software Association of Canada