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Canada’s focus needs to be on tech products, not research

By Denzil Doylehigh tech

Canada’s current prime minister seems to have a better understanding of the impact of technology on the country’s economy than most of his predecessors. He is not afraid to refer to key reports like the Jenkins Report and to engage in dialogue with the trade associations that are relevant to the industry. However, he would be well advised to urge his speech writers to be a little more selective in his use of the phrase “R&D.” Like most politicians and bureaucrats, his speeches suggest that if we just do more R&D, our payback from the technology that it creates will be automatic. As a result, they have established goals for R&D in Canadian industry, and they have been critical of Canadian industry when those goals are not met.

What we must do is focus the dialogue more directly on Canada’s share of world trade in technology-based products and services and less on R&D. For example, it would be refreshing to hear the PM make a statement like, “It is unacceptable for a country like Canada to have such a large trade deficit with the rest of the world in technology-based goods and services.” The dialogue will not be easy; the definition of high technology can be vague and so can its value on both a national and international basis. Worse still, there is a strong lobby for the status quo and it is generating lots of R&D dollars, particularly for government laboratories and universities.

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