Benjamin Bergen is Executive Director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, a national business council led by the CEOs of Canada’s fastest growing technology firms.
It’s easy to be a pessimist these days. We have now been slogging through the turmoil, strain and heartache of a global pandemic for more than a year — long enough to grind anybody down. But by their very nature, innovators are optimists. We don’t accept the world as it is today. We insist that it can be better, and when we see problems, we work to make it better by building the solutions.
Innovators have helped carry us through COVID-19. E-commerce, cloud computing and an array of other technologies have saved countless lives by allowing us to continue working in our socially distanced reality. What’s more, innovative, cutting-edge techniques allowed us to develop vaccines at breakneck speed. As we look toward putting COVID-19 behind us, our world will only be more data-driven and technology-infused, and when the post-pandemic recovery comes, we can be sure that it will be led by innovative companies. There’s no guarantee, though, that Canada will enjoy the full benefit of this economic boom. If we aren’t engaged and proactive, Canada can’t expect to claim its share of the global knowledge economy. If we don’t put the right policies in place to support homegrown Canadian innovators, there is a very real possibility that Canada will be left buying technologies and services from the countries that get it right, and we will all be poorer for it.
A thriving innovation economy is an ecosystem, and everything is interconnected — high-growth scale-ups, emerging startups, established players, research institutions, venture capitalists, angel investors and public policy experts. A growing, prosperous ecosystem creates wealth in terms of equity and intangible assets, which get invested back into the ecosystem, driving the next generation of growth. This growth also creates public wealth in the form of taxes, which help pay for the social services we all value as Canadians.
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