Federal innovation support programs focus of ground breaking Treasury Board inventory (Excerpt)

February 16, 2018.

Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS)By Mark Henderson

Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) has completed a comprehensive inventory of federal programs aimed at supporting business innovation and clean technology. The inventory captured 20 organizations and 92 program streams (business-facing programs), with the top five accounting for more than two-thirds of the $2.383 billion total. Rich in detail and cross linked with Statistics Canada data, the horizontal review and inventory includes deep data sets and accompanying analysis that will be of immense help to policy makers charged with developing a new suite of programs that are responsive to the wide range of characteristics displayed by tech firms of all ages, sizes, sectors and growth trajectories.

“The Government will initiate a horizontal review of all federal innovation and clean
technology programs across all departments, as federal innovation programs are
disbursed. Consistent with the principles of Canada’s new Innovation and Skills Plan …
the horizontal review will look to simplify programming and better align resources to
improve the effectiveness of innovation programs.” — Budget Directive for TBS Review

The review found that a full 80% of expenditures originated from the department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) and its affiliated regional development agencies. However, only 45% of total spending goes directly to firms, with another 30% going to academic institutions and researchers engaged in industry collaboration.

Academic contributions to inventory

As part of the initiative, TBS contracted four academics to write papers on various aspects of the research literature underpinning the inventory – clusters, clean tech, program design and evaluation and benchmarking. Dr Margaret Dalziel, an associate professor with the Univ of Waterloo’s Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre, wrote the paper on evaluation and benchmarking. She says the TBS exercise is extremely important for future federal business innovation support, but cautioned that TBS’s work is not yet complete.

“It’s great that they’ve done this, it’s a fantastic start. It provides something to build on,” says Dalziel. “But they haven’t finished the job of figuring out and evaluating the impact of the programs … A little information can be a dangerous thing.”

Dalziel says that the inventory is a critical first step in “the important work of designing and improving programs … The evaluation component is still required … We need to know about the nature of the firms (receiving support)”.

Read more about the TBS’s comprehensive innovation support program inventory on the RESEARCH MONEY website.