We’ve Owned the Podium, Now Canada Needs to Own the Lab
Thursday, March 3, 2016
You may have heard about Own the Podium and how it offers support for our top athletes to be the best in the world. Well now it’s time for us to Own the Lab here in Canada.
I’ll explain what I mean by that in a minute.
First, let’s consider how our leaders are talking now about the need to embrace innovation, entrepreneurship and the importance it will play for Canada’s new economy and for our youth.
At the World Economic Forum earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others talked about how the world is in the early stages of the fourth industrial revolution.
It is fascinating to think about how steam power changed the world, followed by electricity, and more recently, the computer.
As the Prime Minister pointed out in his speech in January, it is easy to see how connections between computing, information, robotics and biotechnologies can deliver spectacular progress. However, the fourth industrial revolution will not succeed unless we create new opportunities for billions of people around the world.
Think about things like potable water and making it available to the many people who now live without it as just one example. Technology will allow for important breakthroughs no doubt in areas such as medicine or energy that will be of great benefit to millions of people.
Here are a few of the things the Prime Minister went on to say are essential in the fourth industrial revolution: education (to help people learn and adapt), policies that encourage science, innovation and research, recognizing diversity as a source of strength and governments willing to invest in all of that.
He said Canada is well positioned in all those areas.
I couldn’t agree more based on my experience with SHAD.
Since 1980, SHAD has brought together a diverse group of the best and brightest young high school minds from all over the country every summer for what is an intense program specializing in different fields including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Most of these students are looking to make a breakthrough to help in their communities or around the world and the program has become synonymous with entrepreneurship and innovation. The evidence: Take a look at this video we just produced and see for yourself. Listen to the alumni who have built lifelong connections from SHAD as they talk about how the program has helped them reach their potential. By teaming up with others looking to make a global impact, a funny thing happens, they do.
SHAD alumni include a world leading stem cell researcher, a top NASA researcher who is involved in Mars discovery, a serial entrepreneur who stars as a Dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, a best-selling author, a world record holder, 30 Rhodes Scholars, Top 20 Under 20 award winners and the list goes on and on.
What’s become clear to me is the impact you can have when you invest in these young brilliant minds.
One alum was so inspired by the program he founded a company in his first year of university to align solar panels and use solar energy in 130 countries around the world.
Another came home from the program and knocked on the doors of leading researchers of cystic fibrosis which helped him make a major discovery at only 17.
Another worked on experiments in his basement to transform noise into electricity and now has a provisional patent.
(But) to foster these leaders of the future and change makers, we have found we need to build an innovation ecosystem and ensure there are no financial or other barriers that might keep them from reaching their potential.
The new Canadian economy requires this kind of intellectual capital and the skills necessary to fuel innovation.
But we now have to go farther than we have before.
Prime Minister Trudeau famously told those global business leaders back in January that they may know Canadians for our resources but they should also know us for our resourcefulness.
But for that to happen we need to make the necessary investments.
Let me go back to what I said earlier and how we have to Own the Lab. Government and corporate leaders have to invest in our best and brightest minds so they can Own the Lab in the same way we invest in Own the Podium for our best athletes.
At the Vancouver Olympics, we showed as a country we CAN Own the Podium.
If we Own the Lab, we can ensure there are more Canadian inventions such as insulin and more world leading Canadian companies the way Blackberry was for years. Canadians can be leaders creating positive change around the world in the fourth industrial revolution. But that resourcefulness won’t be on display and won’t happen as a matter of course without the proper support.