Discovery 11: Showcasing Ontario's Innovation

Andrea Dias is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) hosted the Discovery 11 conference and tradeshow on May 18-19m 2011. Named Canada’s Best Trade Show in 2010, Discovery hopes to promote innovation in Ontario by facilitating the exchange of ideas and encouraging collaboration between industry, academia, government, entrepreneurs, students, and potential investors.

The event gathered together over 2,000 attendees from all over the globe and more than 300 exhibitions. Discovery showcases leading research, new technologies, best practices in a variety of industries, clean energy, and more.

Kicking off the event was keynote speaker Premier Dalton McGuinty, who addressed the key role of innovation in the provincial economy and the importance of supporting small business innovation. Also including in the opening address was Sean Conway, Chair of the OCE Board and Public Policy Adviser at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, as well as Dr. Tom Corr, President and Chief Executive Officer of OCE.

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre was live with possibility. Inventors, entrepreneurs and researchers were all more than happy to present their ideas and findings during the exhibition. The province’s universities  and colleges were present to display the fruits of their research. For example, the University of Guelph has undertaken a bean genomic project, which hopes to use the complete bean genome to improve the bean crop so to be able to become resistant to bacterial pathogens. In addition they are finding ways to replace plastics with bean-based products.

The conference included panel discussions on some of today’s most popular innovations. Plug-in electrical vehicles, stereo 3D applications, mobile apps, solar energy, and innovative public transit (a topic of great interest to all Torontonians!), were some of the topics presented. One panel discussed the commercialization initiatives in medical diagnostic technology in Ontario. The speakers highlighted the barriers that exist to bringing imaging research to commercialization – a struggle that is not unique to this field. The question was how do we increase the engagement of enterprise to help bring the advances in research to those patients in need? How do we attempt to improve communication between the traditionally sharply distinct worlds of academia and industry to improve the rate of commercialization of innovative technologies?

Hopeful entrepreneurs also had the chance to compete for prizes, including capital funds and consulting services in some of the event’s competitions. My personal favourite of these was the Elevator Pitch competition. Here the contestants had 5 minutes to pitch their ideas to the panel of expert judges. The ideas ranged from new social networking apps to post-surgical scar reduction creams. The winning idea was from the creators of Patient Way – inventors of a self-service check-in system for hospitals.

Also in attendance were representatives from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), to help the up and coming entrepreneurs make wise decisions when choosing their commercialization strategy. CIPO has two initiatives to increase IP education. The first is the Bank of Speakers initiative, where IP presentations are available to public and private organizations across Canada for free. For the post-secondary audience, CIPO offers IP Case Studies, which are reflective of real IP situations, and serve as a teaching tool to demonstrate the value of IP.

Aside from being exciting and informative, Discovery 11 opened my eyes to all the innovation happening right here in Ontario. The immense advances in technology can only be an indication of the intriguing future ahead for IP!