Dan Herman, co-founder and executive director of Waterloo, Ontario-based economic policy think-tank the Centre for Digital Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance (DEEP) has joined the federal government’s Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, as Executive Director of Innovation Policy and Analysis.
Herman says the new job “provides an exciting opportunity to help my federal colleagues craft our country’s innovation agenda and the policies that will drive competitiveness and prosperity for all Canadians.”
DEEP was founded in 2012 by Herman and business writer Anthony Williams, as a response to the federal government’s lack of focus on high-growth firms, and to push an agenda focused on the importance of growth and innovation to diversifying Canada’s economy.
Since then, DEEP has assembled an influential body of research that outlines specific barriers to growth for Canadian firms and has made a series of actionable policy recommendations.
“Whether focused on the tech sector, manufacturing or services, our work has explored how and why firms in Canada grow from startup to billion dollar revenue and beyond and what role ecosystem supports and various policies and structures play in their evolution,” says Herman. “Given the feedback we’ve received, and the adoption of many of our recommendations, I’d like think that we’ve punched above our weight in the development of actionable policy insight for our government partners.”
Citing the dominance of Silicon Valley, along with the healthy development of tech sectors in foreign capitals like Austin, Texas, Bangalore, London, and Tel Aviv, not to mention General Motors’ US$500 million investment in ride-sharing app Lyft and Campbell Foods’ US$125 million investment in food startups, as well as the presence of over 100 active corporate venture capital funds in the US versus just a handful in Canada, Herman writes, “It’s hard not to draw a rather dramatic conclusion – we’re not playing to win.”
Herman already brings some government experience, having worked at the provincial level on government-industry relations for Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development.
In his new role in Ottawa, he will no doubt be spending significant time working with current Minister of Small Business and Tourism and MP for Waterloo, Bardish Chagger, who defeated Herman as the Liberal candidate to represent the riding in last autumn’s federal election.
“It’s hard not to draw a rather dramatic conclusion – we’re not playing to win.” – Federal Executive Director of Innovation Policy and Analysis, Dan Herman
In March, the federal government pledged $800 million over a four-year period to support innovation networks and tech clusters, such as is already well developed in Waterloo.
He has been asked to help a team within the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to frame an innovation agenda that could be actionable in the short term, concentrating on how to create short-, medium- and long-term strategies to help Canadian companies compete on the world stage and diversify the Canadian economy towards a greater emphasis on innovation and technology.
“As our new federal government ponders how to catalyze a slow-growth economy, it’s clear that a shift in emphasis from startups to scale-ups should be a major part of a new policy focus,” wrote Herman and Micheál J. Kelly in an article for the Balsillie School of International Affairs.
Herman’s key focus will be on companies with high-growth potential, cultivating an ecosystem and infrastructure to help the next crop of tech companies to compete globally, becoming the next Shopify, D2L or Hootsuite.
The federal government’s Innovation Agenda, represented by Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, is looking for ways to tailor government regulations to allow companies to mature to that level, as well as to re-write Canada’s immigration policies to attract tech talent, not to mention targeting infrastructure spending that might help facilitate the functioning of Canada’s tech hubs, such as improved transportation between Waterloo and Toronto suggested by tech leaders like Stephen Lake of Thalmic Labs.
Herman expects his tenure to be a temporary two-year stint, after which he intends to return to Waterloo from Ottawa.