It wasn’t potash, or gold, or even lumber.
Today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed Canada’s lagging research and development, and its role in science and technology based investments.
In particular, Harper referred to a report produced by a panel led by Open Text (TSX:OTC) Chairman Tom Jenkins that reviewed the Canadian government’s R&D spending, concluding it was antiquated and unnecessarily complex. The report, called The Review of Federal Support to Research and Development, was submitted to Gary Goodyear, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology in late-October. Among other recommendations, the paper said the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (SR&ED or SRED), was in need of overhaul, that the National Research Council should be turned into a number of large-scale collaborative centers, and that the Business Development Bank of Canada should work more closely with angel investor groups.
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“In the months to come our government will undertake major transformations to position Canada for growth over the next generation.” said Harper, adding: “We will continue to make the investments in science and technology necessary to sustain a modern competitive economy. But we believe that Canada’s less than optimal results for those investments is a significant problem for our country. We have recently received a report on this, the Jenkins report, and we will soon act on the problems the report identifies.”
Those in the Canadian tech community know Tom Jenkins, who recently received The Order of Canada, as a tireless proponent of Canada making its way up the value chain. Jenkins is the Chair of the Canadian Digital Media Network, an appointed member of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, past appointed member of the Government of Canada’s Competition Policy Review Panel, and past appointed member of the Province of Ontario’s Ontario Commercialization Network Review Committee. Jenkins also helped found Communitech, the Waterloo based network of hundreds of technology companies and organizations.
Jenkins was President, then CEO of Open Text from 1994 to 2005, before handing over the title to John Shackleton, who recently retired from the role. Open Text, a leader in the Enterprise Content Management space, recently became the second billion dollar tech company, by revenue, in the Kitchener-Waterloo tech triangle.
Jenkins joins another Canadian tech leader, Terry Matthews, in penning recent papers urging the Canadian government to increase its investment into technology-based businesses.
Matthews, through through his investment firm, Wesley Clover, recently released a white paper called “The Challenge of Survival for Canada’s Technology Sectors”. The paper warns that “…we cannot rely on the export of oil and gas, minerals, grain and wood alone.” The document also sets to dispel what it believes to be a commonly accepted fallacy; that Canada got through the recession unscathed and is a model for the world.
If that is true, Wesley Clover asks, “Why were we only 13th of 34 in the OECD for real GDP growth in 2010?” adding “Why were we twenty-first in unemployment rate in the OECD for 2009 and still just 17th by 2010?”. The reality, says the report, is that we are “in the middle of the pack.”