Sunday, June 19, 2016

Innovation Agenda could be a boon to Canadian space...if we speak up

Last week the federal government made 3 big space announcements. You may not have heard about the most important one because it didn’t mention space.

First, the 2 obvious space announcements:
Now, the announcement that probably slipped under your radar. The Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) issued a press release, Building an inclusive and innovative Canada.

(Note: You can also read the backgrounder, Positioning Canada to Lead: An Inclusive Innovation Agenda, for more details about the strategy.)

That last news release didn’t mention space, but it’s more important to the long-term health of Canada’s space industry than the other 2 announcements combined.

ISED Minister Navdeep Bains, along with Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, and Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, want to make Canada a “global centre of innovation.”

As stated in the press release, the government is focusing on the following 6 areas:
  • promoting an entrepreneurial and creative society
  • supporting global science excellence
  • building world-leading clusters and partnerships
  • growing companies and accelerating clean growth
  • competing in a digital world
  • improving ease of doing business
Over the summer they want feedback from stakeholders through a website and through round-table discussions. That feedback will lead to an action plan.

Does space fit into this plan?

It sure does according to Sylvain Laporte, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Speaking at a recent Vancouver Board of Trade event, Mr. Laporte said the CSA’s focus is on innovation, especially within commercial space.

That’s likely no coincidence, seeing as how Mr. Laporte’s boss is Minister Bains. This focus acknowledges the role space can play in the Innovation Agenda.

We’ve seen plenty of government initiatives launched before. Won’t this one lead to the usual end result, a report collecting dust on a shelf?

According to Minister Bains it won’t. He said this in the press release:
We don't need another report on what our challenges are. We need fresh ideas and a joint action plan that will make innovation a national priority and put Canada on a firm path to long-term economic growth.
It’s easy to be cynical about government promises, but the stakes for Canadian space are too high for us to give in to cynicism.

The government is asking for input from stakeholders in all areas. If the space community doesn’t make itself heard, we’ll have only ourselves to blame if space gets left out.

That input can’t come from just the advocacy and industry groups as it has in the past. It also has to come from you, the space industry worker.

When that website goes live, speak up. Tell the government what the space industry can do if we have the support and resources. Tell the government what we need from them and how support for our industry will benefit Canada. And tell your co-workers about the site. We need everyone to participate. not get another chance any time soon.

June 22 Update: The Innovation Agenda website is now live. Start talking.