In The Know

IP is key to driving innovation in Canada — but it’s not the only factor: Innovation Economy Council

Canadian entrepreneurs and inventors are falling behind, unable to globally dominate or compete in areas of vital technologies. We are beset by a collective failure to harness and monetize intellectual property in key sectors and so we consistently struggle to turn our best innovation into commercially viable businesses. This leaves us stuck in a downward economic spiral. 

That’s the perception at least. While there is certainly some truth in this narrative, there is a more nuanced reality, as this report outlines. Beyond Patents: Canada’s Intellectual Property Puzzle was written by Barrie McKenna and released by the Innovation Economy Council. 

Across the broad spectrum of Canadian companies, fewer than one in five businesses own some form of intellectual property, which can range from patents and trademarks to trade secrets and confidential data. We are slipping in global rankings as well: we are not even among the top countries in filing patents relative to population size and GDP.

Some of Canada’s most innovative companies in clean technology and life sciences are savvy and active IP users though, and the importance of IP itself varies significantly from sector to sector. 

We should not have a narrow focus, McKenna concludes. Intellectual property can certainly be an important factor, but it is far from the only one. 

Lack of funders is our greatest failure, and generating local financing will help to attract and anchor companies and IP here in Canada, he writes. Ambition, access to capital, talent, adequate government financial support and having a viable business model can all play crucial roles as well. 

“There is no one-size-fits-all strategy that will drive innovation and supercharge the Canadian economy. There are many.” 

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