Innovation - A key to economic growth
If you think innovation only involves the latest technology advancements, think again. A recent report completed by a Memorial University research team focuses on advancing and fostering innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador, and says the key is broadening the concept of innovation.
“There’s a misconception that innovation only involves technology and developing a new invention or piece of equipment, and it is much more than just that,” said Dr. Rob Greenwood, executive director of the Harris Centre at Memorial and one of the lead researchers for the report. “Innovation is about new approaches to all aspects of business activity and bringing existing innovative approaches to new areas or regions.”
The report, Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies for Advancing Innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador, works to answer the question: “What can industry, communities, governments, Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic do to advance innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador?” It is based on findings collected from regional workshops, a research review and a provincial summit meeting.
The answer, according to the Advancing Innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador research team, is multi-pronged, and it must start with broadening the understanding of the concept of innovation.
Using a broad-based definition of innovation, the report outlines that business, community, government (all levels) and post-secondary institutions – the “quadruple helix” – all have a role to play in advancing innovation in the province. In addition, these groups need to provide a broad suite of mechanisms to support innovation.
“Innovation is a social process requiring a long-term, collaborative strategy that includes businesses, community organizations, all levels of government and post-secondary institutions. Working together, we will have a greater impact,” said Dr. Heather Hall, postdoctoral fellow and part of the research team. “However, province-wide innovation policies are not enough. Any innovation strategy has to recognize the importance of regional context.”
The research suggests that a comprehensive and collaborative place-based strategic plan is needed to bring all groups together to foster and advance innovation throughout the province. Furthermore, the plan should:
- Create an innovation awareness campaign
- Create a quadruple helix innovation strategy
- Position Newfoundland and Labrador as a leader in innovation education
- Promote and supporting business networks
- Encourage more commercialization in Newfoundland and Labrador
“Communities across Newfoundland and Labrador are facing unprecedented change in our economy and demographics,” said Dr. Greenwood. “To survive amidst all this shifting and uncertainty, we need to look to new products, new processes, new ways of organizing ourselves – that’s innovation. And the only way to foster that is to start collaborating on a broader scale.”
Dr. Greenwood and Dr. Hall presented the report and the findings of the Advancing Innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador research team at Innovation Outlook in May. It was day-long conference that featured speakers highlighting the importance of innovation as an economic driver and a key component of economic diversification for Newfoundland and Labrador technologies and businesses.The Advancing Innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador project team consists of Dr. Greenwood, executive director of the Harris Centre and Public Engagement; Dr. Hall, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Geography; Dr. Kelly Vodden, associate professor (research), Environmental Policy Institute, Grenfell Campus; Dr. Jacquelyn Walsh, assistant professor, Business, Grenfell Campus; Kyle White, undergraduate research assistant, Department of Geography; and Ken Carter, PhD candidate, Department of Geography.
The report, Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies for Advancing Innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador, is available at www.mun.ca/harriscentre.