Premier McGuinty Kicks Off OCE Discovery 11 with a Bang

Hashim Ghazi is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

On May 18-19, 2011, I had the pleasure of attending the Ontario Centre of Excellence’s (OCE) annual conference, Discovery 11 (you can read about the conference as a whole on Andrea Dias’ blog post here). The conference focused on the importance of innovative and entrepreneurial development in the province to sustain a stronger economy.

The conference also showcased the many talented entrepreneurs and academic researchers that are in the midst of developing breakthrough technologies that are more efficient, economic, and environmentally friendly than what is used today; it is evident that Ontario is not short on innovation and some of these developments have global potential in their use.

The conference kicked off with a keynote address by the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty. As Ontario’s first Minister of Research and Innovation ever, he understands the importance of innovation in Ontario and the benefits it can provide to not only Ontarians, but nationally and internationally as well. Given his technical background, he possesses a deeper understanding of some of the technologies out there, and thus, has a greater appreciation for the intellect that goes into innovation, and has always been a large advocator of these developments being at the forefront of our economy.

He went on to say that innovation is a ‘reserve of none,’ as it belongs to all of us and each one of us can contribute to it. Although, in some regards, a certain expertise or background may be required, innovation and technological development is not an exclusive opportunity, but rather one that is available to everyone. Furthermore, innovation provides an avenue that contributes to the benefit of humanity and, as a result, although one or a few people directly contribute to the innovation, the successes of it are shared by all.

The Premier went on to discuss a new initiative of the Government of Ontario known as the “Social Innovation Wiki.” The objective of the project is create a wiki-environment, where anybody can contribute to the topics and areas of concern.  Topics focused on social problems faced by the government today, such as unemployment, poverty, and pollution. The use of a wiki allows for public response to the proposed initiatives, as the online contributors play a direct role in the strategies developed to achieve positive results. The Premier stressed how his father used to say that “no one of us is stronger than all of us together, and no one of us is smarter than all of us together,” and how this approach helps dissipate the greatest of problems within society today.

This initiative benefits all parties involved. It is beneficial to Ontarians because it creates an environment where they can openly commend or criticize initiatives being taken on the Government, and actually have a say in what they feel is the best plan of action. Likewise, it yields positive outcomes for the Government because they have a chance to hear what the people want, and use this to make an informed decision, thereby avoiding the use of extensive resources (i.e. taxpayers’ money) in a manner that is not well-received by the community in Ontario. However, an underlying motivation exists here: the government wants to foster innovation of Ontarians towards social issues, thereby promoting the need for innovation and technological development in the province to sustain growth, as well as tackle the areas of concern that are closest to the hearts of society. It is virtually a win-win, and a huge stride towards a better Ontario.

Throughout the Premier’s address, I could not help but think of the importance of IP in all of this. With innovation occurring at a rapid rate within Ontario, the need for protection of these inventions, ideas, designs, and works of art, is integral to further foster Ontario’s growth as a technological haven. Thus, the area of IP plays an exciting role in fostering a more innovative Ontario.  With all the advancements in technology occurring in the province, the practice area will only grow in demand and importance.  It appears that the future holds an exciting time for all those in the area.

One of the quotes that stood out from Premier McGuinty’s address was when he was discussing his background in chemistry and stated “I used to spend a lot of time looking into a microscope. Now, I am often under it.” The world of politics is one where you cannot make everyone happy, but I am sure that the 2,500 attendees of Discovery 11 were applauding the Premier’s efforts towards a more innovative Ontario, which makes me look forward to what the future has in store for the province not only with regards to innovation, but the role intellectual property law plays in it.