MaRS is key in innovation strategy

Yesterday morning, Minister of Research and Innovation John Wilkinson unveiled Ontario’s new innovation strategy in Ottawa – and in so doing outlined the specific, concrete steps the province is taking to secure a leading position in the global knowledge economy. MaRS is a key part of that plan.

The strategy is built around five key themes:

  • Accelerating commercialization by building on the province’s world-renowned research strength.
  • Focusing on key sectors where Ontario can achieve global leadership like advanced health technologies, biopharmaceuticals, digital media and information and communications technology.
  • Injecting commerce and entrepreneurship into education and skills training at all levels and for all ages.
  • Improving the overall business environment through progressive taxation polices and streamlined regulations.
  • Reconfiguring government as a catalyst and an enabler, in particular through new investment vehicles like the “Next Generation Jobs Fund.”

Unsurprisingly, MaRS is featured prominently throughout the strategy. Described as “one of North America’s largest and most concentrated convergence centres,” MaRS is praised for its ability to bring together under one roof researchers, entrepreneurs, investors and technology expertise – exactly the kind of assets which also anchor a broader, virtual network.

The strategy also emphasizes the importance of the Investment Accelerator Fund in providing early stage, seed capital to emerging technology companies. And in a reference close to my own heart, the report emphasizes the importance of social enterprises – and specifically mentions both SiG and a prospective Social Venture Capital Fund as key programs designed to revolutionize social enterprises across the province.

Notwithstanding the impressive array of commitments and initiatives, I was especially struck by the Ministry’s decision to define innovation in such a broad and inclusive fashion. By arguing that “innovation helps to achieve the greatest value from existing markets, create new companies and industries and address social problems,” the strategy adopts the kind of convergent perspective that sits at the core of MaRS. Very cool indeed…

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