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Panel 305 - Failure to Thrive: Why Canada Struggles to Grow World Leading Tech Companies

Conference Day: 
Day 2 - November 8th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Failure to Thrive: Why Canada struggles to grow world-leading companies

Organized by:  Weronika Zych, Council of Canadian Academies

Speakers: Lisa Crossley, CEO, Reliq Health Technologies Inc.; Judy Fairburn, Board Director, Public Policy Forum and Sustainable Development Technology Canada; Victoria Lennox, Co-Founder and CEO, Start-Up Canada; Pierre Lortie, Senior Business Advisor, Dentons LLP; Iain Stewart, President, National Research Council

Moderator: Eric M. Meslin, President and CEO, Council of Canadian Academies

Takeaways and recommendations

  • Innovation policy, government programs and risk capital all play different and conflicting roles in the current environment. Canada has exemplars of scaled up companies but we must shift the pre-dominant focus on small companies to those that can scale and compete in a global marketplace.

Recognize the importance of scale and networks

  • Start-ups challenged by Canada’s small domestic market need to plan to go global from day one to overcome reliance on the U.S. market.

  • The knowledge economy is driven by the economics of networks, in contrast to the “old economy” which is driven by economies of scale.

  • Canadian policymakers have a misguided view of job creation, focusing on small firms instead of on companies that can scale.

  • Technology adoption centres and tax exemption centres can help bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and multinationals.

  • Progress is being made to reduce the disconnect between entrepreneurs and government.

Identify the issues holding back business innovation

  • Barriers to scaling companies include a lack of managerial talent, access to capital, pressure for short-term exits and procurement policies that don’t emphasize value-add.

  • Not enough venture capital goes to companies seeking to scale.

  • Canada has lost many of its global companies in recent years, dropping from approximately 15 to as few as five.

  • Time matters. Uncertainty and delays often result in business failure.

  • Risk culture is essential. We need to foster a can-do attitude; make it part of the Canadian DNA.

Take advantage of opportunities

  • Disruption creates opportunity and Canada has recognized this with recent investments in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

  • Scale the AI Supercluster to succeed in the competition for talent, augmented by boosting the post-secondary training of AI talent.

  • Increase investment in Canadian ICT (information and communications technology) to lessen the gap relative to the U.S.

Documents: