Nathan Fan is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
At this year’s Canada 3.0 conference, over 2,000 members of the private, public and academic sectors gathered together in hopes of forging actionable ideas that could bring Canada’s digital media industry into the global forefront. As keynote speaker, Tony Chapman (CEO of Capital C) was invited to speak his mind on Canada’s role in the future of innovation. Chapman’s speech illuminated Canada’s unique position to take on a starring role in the global innovation industry as the world’s “launch lab” for innovation.
Chapman believes that innovation is the lifeblood of capitalism. Innovation is what drives capitalism in its perpetual search for the holy grail of “faster, better and more efficient”. In what Chapman calls the “Aggregation Age”, we are now creating more information than we can digest. Companies are coming together to aggregate immense amounts of content, which is prioritized, sifted through and then presented to the public. Innovation is now about collaboration and the aggregation of ideas.
Chapman points to America as the model example of collaboration. He attributes their current success to the discipline that America had put into the process of innovation over 60 years ago when Stanford University invited the public, private and academic sectors to collaborate towards future innovation. Stanford’s research park is the forefather of what is known today as Silicon Valley.
In addressing the question of how Canada can become a leader in this world, Chapman’s answer was honest: “I don’t think we can lead in this world. In fact, I don’t think any country or any company…can lead. But I think we can create a starring role.” This starring role is to be the launch lab for the world. Chapman explains that as the world is creating too much innovation for us to digest, a large number of great ideas, processes and content become starved for attention and lost in the sea of clutter. As a launch lab, Canada can help pick out these great innovators and equip them with capital, engineering, prototyping, IP and branding resources to help commercialize their ideas. Chapman says that such a launch lab would provide innovators with “first mover advantage without the first mover risk”.
What would a launch lab for the world look like? Chapman believes that a collaboration of experts in various disciplines is required, but the DNA of the launch lab is intelligence. Chapman wants to see the same type of intelligence gathering that the U.S. military currently possesses on all parts of the world, except to have the information focused on the consumer and their marketplace. Intelligence on the consumer would include the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of consumers across the world and aggregating world census data with an emphasis on establishing online dialogue with people to determine “what they are thinking today and what they want tomorrow”. Intelligence on the marketplace would include data on how various markets are constructed, their value and supply chains, the regulations and laws in each country, etc.
Chapman also proposes the need to gather experts in various disciplines. Experts in prototyping, engineering and design will give the innovators a fresh pair of eyes and further refine their ideas to match with potential markets. Branding experts would help innovators by understanding the different channel strategies required for different markets in the world (i.e. different roles of mass media, new media, social media, digital media). Channel distribution and financing experts would offer innovators strategies that cater to their potential markets. Chapman also stresses the importance of having a strong IP presence in helping to protect these ideas both domestically and internationally (an example of which was Chapman’s collaboration with IP Osgoode’s very own Dr. Pina D’Agostino).
Why Canada? Chapman believes that Canada has a good track record of collaboration in bringing the public, private and academic sectors together. Canada has already shown promise in the ocean technologies in Newfoundland, life sciences in Halifax, aluminum technology in Quebec, the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, the Waterloo Way, nanotechnology in Winnipeg, and solar energy in B.C. Chapman also thinks of Canada as a microcosm of the world. Canada’s multicultural society allows us to provide unique insight to innovators and provides them with social networks from all over the world. Further, Canada is a tolerant society with many natural resources (i.e. oil and fresh water) that makes our country an attractive place for some of the world’s best minds.
In his call to action, Chapman gave some of his thoughts on what might be holding Canada back from taking such a position on the world stage. Chapman pondered whether the fact that Canadians have never felt that we should lead holds us back, and quoting Pierre Trudeau, that “we peer so suspiciously at each other that we cannot see that we Canadians are standing on the mountaintop of human wealth, freedom and privilege”. Ultimately, Chapman believes that Canada must “draw the line in the sand” and dedicate ourselves to the cause in order for Canada to fill its starring role.
Overall, Tony Chapman presented an optimistic role of Canada’s future in innovation. His launch lab vision provides a clear roadmap for Canada to stake its claim. As we have already seen Canada’s ability to successfully collaborate on innovation, Tony Chapman has simply called Canada to take it to the next level.