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Archived - Announcement of the NRC-IRAP Business Innovation Access Program

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Speaking Points

The Honourable Greg Rickford Minister of State (Science and Technology)

March 18, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

Check Against Delivery

Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Kyle, for that kind introduction. And a big thank you, of course, to Dr. Jeff Zabudsky and Sheridan College, our gracious hosts.

I would also like to acknowledge John McDougall, President of the National Research Council of Canada; Tom Jenkins, Chair of the Research and Development Review Expert Panel, otherwise known as the Jenkins panel, and Chairman of OpenText; Jayson Myers, President of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters; and Denise Amyot, President and CEO of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. To the entrepreneurs in the room, thank you for taking time away from your businesses to be here with us today.

Before I begin, I'd like to first thank Jeff for what I've always wanted, my very own race car.

Ladies and gentlemen, in this 3-D printed model lies one of the earliest stages of Canadian innovation.

Innovation begins with an entrepreneur willing to take the risks associated with bringing a new idea to market.

As Canada continues to become integrated into the competitive global economy, innovation never ends. Innovation is key to the success of Canadian entrepreneurs and key to the creation of jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

With new major trade agreements signed with South Korea and the European Union, an ocean of opportunity lies on the shores of the Pacific and the Atlantic for Canadian entrepreneurs.

But innovation and commercialization challenges do not lie in the destination; they lie along the way.

Many entrepreneurs I've met can quickly identify a problem, a barrier, a hurdle to bringing a product or service to market but lack the time, money and expertise to conduct the R&D needed to innovate and move forward.

Meanwhile, Canada's universities, colleges and research institutions are vibrant and growing and are acknowledged around the globe for research excellence. We continue to lead the G7 in research and development investment at post-secondary institutions.

So how do we square this circle? How do we better connect Canada's problem finders—entrepreneurs—with Canada's problem solvers—researchers and students? How do we move Canadian innovation forward? In pursuit of answers to questions like these, our Government set up an independent panel of eminent Canadians led by Tom Jenkins in 2010.

The Jenkins Panel had the primary goal of improving our government's contribution to business innovation for maximum economic benefit and job-creation.

The Panel found that Canadian SME entrepreneurs lack awareness of the range of services and facilities available to them at public institutions, particularly those related to commercialization. What's more, it discovered that the few businesses that were aware of these services found them too complex and too time-consuming to be worthwhile.

To address this challenge head on, one of the recommendations made by the Jenkins panel was to create a national “commercialization vouchers” pilot program.

Today, in direct response to this recommendation, I am very proud to officially launch the Business Innovation Access Program. This new pilot program will encourage Canadian entrepreneurs to partner with Canadian universities, colleges and research institutions to become more innovative and competitive while creating jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

The program will provide entrepreneurs with the opportunity to tap into the research excellence found in Canadian post-secondary research institutions to move ideas, products and services to the marketplace faster.  

Delivered by the NRC, the Business Innovation Access Program will offer SMEs hassle-free vouchers, valued up to $50,000 per project, to access business and technical services carried out by Canadian researchers and students.

The benefits, however, are not only one-sided. While entrepreneurs will find commercialization and innovation business solutions, post-secondary researchers will be able to offer their students real-world business problems to tackle, preparing them for the actual business world.

As Jeff will no doubt attest, these hands-on learning opportunities for college students are irreplaceable. He'll explain how Sheridan's Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies is actively partnering with local SMEs to do just that.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I let you go, I wanted to point out that the Business Innovation Access Program is but one of the ways our government is moving Canada's innovation agenda forward.

We are actively working on the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, a long-term vision of how Canada can harness the power of science and technology to improve the quality of life of Canadians while also creating jobs, opportunity and prosperity for Canadians.

Thank you.

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