People development at the core of innovation, reveals forum in Ottawa

Ottawa, ON – May 29, 2013 – Innovation is the key to Canada’s economic prosperity as agreed by panelists at a Mitacs forum in Ottawa yesterday. They also identified that one vital piece of the puzzle is missing: skilled R&D managers.

“Business innovation is a driver of growth, productivity and competitiveness and it is easy to overlook the role of people in this transformation,” said Dr. Arvind Gupta, CEO and Scientific Director of Mitacs. “It is the management of the innovation process that ensures a return-on-investment on a company’s innovation spend.”

Chad Gaffield, President of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, stressed that innovation hinges on highly-trained people with diverse skill sets.  “Innovation is a human process driven by people with their individual experiences and particular contexts,” he said. “This makes management central to innovation success.”

Pierre Boucher, Director of Research for Ericsson Canada, while agreeing that people are critical in the innovation equation, noted that there are specific skill sets that R&D managers are often lacking.

“R&D managers must be trained to handle disruptive change,” said Mr. Boucher. “In addition to managing the incremental evolution of a product or technology, they must also learn how to lead extensive, wide-spread innovations that completely change the market in a way no one expected and understand the interplay of sales, marketing and the needs of customers.”

Panelist Ran Xu shared that while she had extensive research expertise after completing a PhD in Ontario, she discovered that she was lacking the necessary project and financial management skills, market research knowledge and experience working in a multidisciplinary team that was required by industry.

Keynote speakers at the annual event included Hon. Gary Goodyear, P.C., M.P., Minister of State (Science & Technology) and Hon. Lynne Yelich, P.C., M.P., Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification).

“The global economy is increasingly driven by new ideas and knowledge-based industries,” said Minister Yelich. “Our Government’s support for Mitacs is contributing to the western Canadian economy by promoting technology adoption and commercialization, and improving international trade linkages with participating countries.”

“While discovery-driven basic research remains essential to our government’s approach, in an era of rapid technological change, we cannot ignore the transformative potential of science in the marketplace,” said the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology).  “We are working to promote the commercialization of ideas because the quality of life of Canadians depends on stronger productivity and innovation in the private sector just as our ability to invest in basic science does.”

Panelists at this annual event also included Geoff Munro, Chief Scientist for Natural Resources Canada, Michael Bloom, VP Organizational Effectiveness and Learning of the Conference Board of Canada, Paul Davidson, President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Jonathan Linton, Power Corporation Professor at the Telfer School of Management of the University of Ottawa and Ran Xu, Research Scientist at DuPont Canada. The panels were moderated by Paul Wells, Political Editor for Maclean’s Magazine and Barrie McKenna, National Business Correspondent for the Globe and Mail.

“R&D managers must have strong research and business skills to provide innovation leadership and in Canada, there is an acknowledged R&D management talent gap. We need to look at the extent to which this is stalling business innovation, and what we can do about it,” said Dr. Gupta.

Mitacs is a national, private not-for-profit organization that develops the next generation of innovators with vital scientific and business skills through a suite of unique research and training programs, such as Mitacs-Accelerate, Elevate, Step, Enterprise and Globalink. In partnership with companies, government and universities, Mitacs is supporting a new economy using Canada’s most valuable resource – its people. For more information on Mitacs, visit


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Megan Airton-Cindric
Director, Communications
Mitacs Inc.
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