Canada’s biggest asset resides in its human capital. We have the best post-secondary attainment rate amongst G7 countries and an immigration system that has proven to be one of the successful in the world. The foundation of innovation is intellectual capital. This is the best investment we’ll ever make in our economic future. We need to double down on our biggest strength.
The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Some may even argue the fifth industrial revolution—where focus is put on benefits to humanity and not just production—is emerging in parallel.
The good news is that it is filled with economic opportunities for Canadian companies to seize. The bad news is it doesn’t allow countries of the size of Canada to think about economic growth the same way it has for most part of the last century.
Our ability to combine the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing with big data is a game-changer. As a result, the global economy is changing fast—and the scope of that change is significant.
We are moving away fast from a labour-intensive, factory-based model of the 20th century to an intangibles economy.
The value of companies in today’s economy is mostly generated from their intangible assets such as ideas, software, intellectual property, and data.
In 1998, the five most valuable companies in the world were General Motors, Ford, Exxon Mobil, Walmart and General Electric.
Today, those companies are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.
This tells us that markets are placing far greater value on patents over physical plants and intellectual property over real estate. The increased business investments in intangibles also backs this assumption.
As the Trudeau government begins its second mandate, the looming economic challenges are significant. Productivity is structurally low and has been for years, demographics and geopolitics risks are on this rise and trade uncertainty is not going away anytime soon.
I believe Canada can become a global player on innovation, but it needs to adopt a bold and decisive approach. BlackBerry is a vibrant example of this potential. We’re proud to take Canadian innovation to global markets and scale.
The introduction of a Digital Charter by Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains last year provides a good conceptual framework to move forward in the data-driven economy. But a much broader and ambitious policy agenda is needed to meet the challenges of our time.
Allow me to propose five broad policy priorities for the newly elected government and Canadian policy-makers.
First, Canada’s biggest asset resides in its human capital. We have the best post-secondary attainment rate amongst G7 countries and an immigration system that has proven to be one of the successful in the world. The foundation of innovation is intellectual capital. This is the best investment we’ll ever make in our economic future. We need to double down on our biggest strength.
Second, policy-makers need to adopt new policies to reflect the incredible potential of intellectual property (IP) as one of the most powerful innovation asset in the intangibles economy. One of the reasons BlackBerry has been able to execute on its recent transformation resides in part in the quality of its proprietary technology and its wide patents portfolio. Governments need to understand the economic value of IP—and the current policy framework puts Canada at a disadvantage globally. When it comes to IP, commercialization is everything.
Third, Canada has an opportunity to set the highest standards on privacy. Digital platforms and the internet of things are making our private information and data more vulnerable than ever. Without public confidence that data is secure and remains private, Canada won’t be successful in a data-driven economy.
Fourth, Canada needs to lead the way on creating a new international architecture that will reflect the realities of the new global economy. We need a new WTO for data and digitized economies. The U.S./China rivalry has the potential to be very disruptive and create a splintered digital world. Countries such as Canada, Japan, France, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Germany can form a common alliance that will be impactful.
Fifth, our diplomacy has to evolve and help Canada win in this era of the intangibles economy. It’s not just about trade deals anymore. Better than anyone else, our diplomats need to understand the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution and what it means for Canada. This should involve new training and tools to better understand the innovation economy. Like Israel, Canada should have a head of data diplomacy, and a whole new focus on exporting Canada’s commercial ideas to the world.
It’s time for Canada to become a leader in the global innovation economy. Our collective economic prosperity depends on it.
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