The Federal Government Role in the Canadian System of Innovation

Almost a decade ago, the OECD recognized that studies of systems of innovation allowed governments to focus on systemic failures of science and technology and innovation policy rather than simply addressing market failures. The OECD researchers developed the concept of national systems of innovation, where the system is made up of a network of actors connected by several types of linkages. In the Canadian context, we need to study both the national system and more particularly how regional systems of innovation combine to produce a national system of innovation. The federal government has various roles in the national system of innovation, but also in the several regional systems that make up the national system. As such, it has to devise policies that may differ across the country, policies that affect economies and social systems that are sometimes defined by provincial boundaries, and sometimes not. Most innovation studies focus on the private sector. The Innovation Systems Research Network (ISRN) study is looking at a number of clusters across the country to determine similarities and differences among the regions. We need, however to look at the public sector at the same time. The federal government has a complex role: it is at the same time a funder and a performer, a source and a consumer of intellectual property and human capital: it has a major leadership role in defining innovation in Canada. The federal government is innovative and innovates for precisely the same reasons as private sector organizations. What are the consequences of this complex role? How can the federal government lead the economy in innovative behavior, rather than trying to drive it with policy carrots and sticks? This is definitely a question for this fall, as the Industry Canada Innovation Summits hopefully elicit a consensus from stakeholders.


Updated 30/08/02

Last updated: November 2009