April 18, 2013
Note: Through the research she conducted for her PhD dissertation, Nicola Hepburn made some key discoveries about innovation in Ontario. This is the second post in a four-part series that she wrote based on her findings. You can read the first post here.
The research I conducted to inform my PhD dissertation gave me the opportunity to speak with a broad range of people who drive social and economic growth across Ontario.
My research group included:
Among other things, I asked them to comment on the research and innovation experience in Ontario. Some of my more memorable respondents were those who underscored the complexity of the innovation process and the importance of forging collaborative ties with like-minded people across different sectors.
Challenges for entrepreneurs
My interviewees highlighted the challenges entrepreneurs must successfully meet. They must:
The innovation process can be messy and unpredictable
Some of the academic entrepreneurs I spoke to recalled their experiences of shepherding an idea from the lab bench to the market. What a journey! Their stories clearly demonstrated how messy and unpredictable the innovation process is. It is spotted with unforeseen opportunities and pitfalls. Crossing “the valley of death” is no mean feat: it requires a lot of hard work, time and resources, as well as an unflinching commitment to meeting the milestones above.
Innovation requires team work
Entrepreneurs can face common bottlenecks, from legal loopholes and financial hurdles to an underdeveloped understanding of the expectations, strengths and weaknesses of the venture’s innovation partners. However, many researchers and entrepreneurs in Ontario overcome these challenges by taking seriously the fact that the innovation process requires the development of robust interpersonal relationships with people within and outside of their given sector/industry and community.
And research and innovation partners must make a sustained effort at establishing strong trust ties, maintaining open and clear communication, co-operating, collaborating and engaging in ongoing negotiations and trade-offs. Innovation is a team sport.
In short, all hands must be on deck if Ontario is to truly develop “a culture of innovation.”