Innovation in Context Series with the CIGI – 2017

When people think about innovation, often the first thing that comes to mind is technology. But have you ever considered the societal conditions that not only lead people to create, but to turn those creations into successful innovations? Or, perhaps how countries can harness idea-driven goods and services that pose new challenges for growing societies? In this series of interviews, talks and panel discussions, from the November 26, 2016 event Innovation in Context, leading thinkers from around the world discuss innovation through the lens of society. (For full YouTube Playlist, click here)

1. Putting Innovation in Context

From Gutenberg’s printing press to anesthesia, what do the world’s greatest innovations have in common? Technology and commitment to excellence, perhaps, but CIGI Senior Fellow E. Richard Gold says innovations are so much more than the products and services we end up with. In this talk, Gold explains why people are what is integral to true innovation and how we can foster and better leverage a culture of innovative thinking. Drawing from examples throughout history, Gold tells the rich story of how human beings are equipped to creatively solve problems and why technology is neither sufficient or necessary for innovation to occur.


2. Educate to Innovate?

Is education an enabler of innovation or a hindrance? Leading thinkers from the business world weigh in on this question.


3. Panel – Innovator as Individual

The classic “nature or nurture” debate also applies to the process of generating a great idea. Business leaders and entrepreneurs share their views in this panel discussion on the extent to which innovation is a result of environment, an aptitude to solve problems or both.


4. Panel – Consumer Engagement

Whether creating solar-powered lanterns, materials resulting from new science or technology to prevent glaucoma, companies must listen to people and keep customers at the centre of their work to innovate and adapt to changing needs and new problems.


5. Panel – Firm Size and the Innovation Process

Innovation isn’t always easy in large companies where bureaucracies can slow down innovators who excel in small startups. But these experts with innovation experience in companies large and small agree that a larger organization does bring benefits, including the ability to get a product to market.


6. Stories from the Field – The Art of Collaboration

Rustam Sengupta’s company, Boond, sets up solar power plants and microgrids for places beyond the grid in India without electricity. Sengupta explains why collaboration is so vital for the type of work he does.


7. Stories from the Field – Monsanto’s Mistake

Ann Gualtieri is a former senior business executive who has worked in multinational corporations for over two decades. Gualtieri shares an anecdote about genetically modified crops and why the development of this technology shows why diversity of perspectives is important in order to commercialize an innovation and make it a success in the global market.


8. Stories from the Field – Look Around You

Len Pinchuk has been an entrepreneur for most of his life. Pinchuk shares some of his first innovations from his early twenties and notes that the common thread between his first ideas and his most recent ideas is that he looked at the materials around him to make something new.


9. Stories from the Field – Innovation Rich, Market Poor

Iqbal Quadir is the founder of Grameenphone – the leading telecommunications service provider in Bangladesh. Quadir uses the example of Grameenphone’s success to illustrate how innovations from the third world have a dovetailing structure.


10. Panel – Innovation City

The city is the most important machine that humans have ever created and they are as unique as individual humans. The panelists question what it takes to make a city innovative and what elements, from institutions to culture, are necessary to replicate Silicon Valley elsewhere.


11. Panel – The Ideology of Failure

Three experts discuss why failure in innovation must be taken seriously in discussing innovation policies. Like in baseball, the majority of attempts fail, but successes and truly novel results can be found in innovation centres with failure rates above 80 percent.


12. Panel – The Treacherous Tenure Track

University tenure systems reward for success and punish for failure. But what is the right balance and are universities the best places for fostering innovation? Three professors discuss some successful techniques but find that universities tend to have conservative approaches.


13. Panel – What is the Use of Use

Three experts peer into the black box of what makes innovation and technology valuable and useful for society and stress the importance of looking for a spark of wonder in thinking about innovation in our daily lives.


14. Inspiration – Bad Improvements

Mark Kingwell, professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, explains the difference between the slow zombie and the fast zombie. There’s a note we can all take from this: not all upgrades are a good idea.


15. Stories from the Field – The Ecosystem

James Evans, professor at the University of Chicago, explains how data sets can better inform us about the knowledge we have and what we can do with it. Evans shares why creating a space for making links between ideas and fostering an innovation ecosystem is important.


16. Inspiration – Technology Temple

Mark Kingwell, professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, shares his memories of the day Steve Jobs died. Kingwell explains what our collective mourning of Jobs tells us about the culture of tech.


17. Inspiration – Innovating Canada

Senia Rapisarda of HarbourVest discusses Canada’s downfalls in investing in innovation, and calls for current entrepreneurs, owners and decision makers to do exactly that.


18. Inspiration – Health Care Returns

Social impact isn’t always weighed equally with return on investment. But according to Benedicte Callan of Arizona State University, the social impact of improved quality of care is what drives healthcare development and sales.


19. Inspiration – Left Behind

Technology needs to be adoptable throughout people’s lifespans. Elisabeth Baier explains the importance for companies to invest in older generations so they can learn about and interact with new technologies.


20. Inspiration – Large Market Lower Prices

To really work, innovation needs to have a large market. Senia Rapisarda offers the example of agricultural technology, and its ability to reach a wide market with decreasing prices.


21. Panel – Basic vs Applied Research

Do you want to have more Nobel prize winners or large companies investing in practical research? It shouldn’t be one or other but instead having an ecosystem — supported by both private investment and government incentives — that fosters both basic and applied research to support innovation.


22. Technology Transfer University vs Company

Intellectual property development and innovation are on the top of the agenda for universities and businesses alike. But as these sectors expand rapidly, how can we quell the growing pains associated with navigating funding bodies, technology transfer organizations and research structures?


23. Panel – Role of Government

Among private sector investors that have the choice of traditional, established, fruitful industries, venture capital is often pushed to the wayside. Can government funding act as a catalyst to push growing, innovative businesses onto the private sector investment agenda?


24. Inspiration – Silver Lining

Canadian businesses sometimes stall after reaching a certain growing point, and are moved out of country. According to Senia Rapisarda of HarbourVest, keeping talent in Canada is paramount in building the Canadian innovation sector and attracting investors.


25. Stories from the Field – Top Down Bottom Up

Benedicte Callan of Arizona State University explains the impact of top-down direction from government bodies in the healthcare sector. The intent was to galvinize and offer clear direction, but the outcome was resistance.


26. Stories from the Field – Gun to their head

Pharmaceutical product patents are in direct competition with the once-thriving, generic drug industry. Iain Gillespie, of the University of Leicester explains how the EU halted the success of generic drugs, and how the Canadian approach differs.


27. Inspiration – Fair Market Entry

Leah Lawrence, CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, explains the significance of the Inter-American Development Bank’s choice to hold their AGM in South Korea and its effect on clean technology market entry.


28. Stories from the Field – Not Nefarious

Leah Lawrence, CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada describes the strategy the United States used for its energy industry to benefit from phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFC).


29. Inspiration – Transformation

Evolutionary technologies have been a major part of progression in green energy, but Leah Lawrence, CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, argues for a focus on transformative technologies.


30. Panel – Canada’s Policy Context

Canadian innovation policy should empower and enable innovators to deliver what they’re good at. Governments aren’t necessarily good at innovation, say these panelists, but they can provide underpinning market conditions, open access to information and develop conditions globally to receive Canadian technologies.


31. Panel – Sectoral Thinking

Many industry sectors are changing rapidly. Three experts ask how innovation in those sectors can be supported by public policy when sector-specific policies haven’t worked over time. They call for broader policies based on market-driven opportunities that remain open to disruptive technologies.


32. Panel – Too Nice

Is Canada too nice when it comes to getting its innovations to the global market? These panelists suggest that while Canadians are very good at coming up with ideas, there isn’t enough effort to help entrepreneurs prosper internationally by pushing for regulatory standards that allow their technologies to be adopted abroad.


33. Panel – Middle Ground

Bringing together talent and creating places and spaces for ideas is important, says this group of experts on supporting innovation. But there needs to be a middle ground between small and large companies to facilitate the discussion of ideas and bring them to market.


34. Lecture – Innovation that Unleashes Prosperity

Iqbal Quadir, founder of the Legatum Center at MIT and GrameenPhone in Bangladesh, traces the disconnects between innovations in the First World and the needs of people in the third world. Innovations must not only solve specific problems, but they need to do it in a way that is affordable relative to the benefits they bring, like how aspirin relieves a headache at a low cost.

This content has been updated on May 10, 2018 at 17:30.