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The youth unemployment problem needs more than R&D

Youth-unemp-picBy Denzil Doyle 

Judging by the amount of student unrest that occurred last year, ostensibly focused on high tuition fees, our politicians at all three levels of government would be wise to brace for more of the same in the coming academic year.

The first thing they should do is get a better understanding of what is bothering our youth, because a little bit of investigation would reveal that tuition fees are relatively low on their totem pole of unrest. We must understand that young people are better educated than they have ever been in the past, that they are entering the workforce with unprecedented debt, and the job opportunities are nothing like they were for previous generations. The mismatch is more pronounced in the manufacturing sector and it is due mainly to the complete absence of some of the more innovative components of that sector. For example, we assemble automobiles in Canada but we do not design them here and we have very little involvement in the more strategic activities like product design and product migration.

Where it makes sense for Canada to innovate Read More

Show up and throw up: A presentation epidemic

20120724_9givingapresentationBy Anil Dilawri

Nobody ever said, “That was an okay presentation, I just wish it was longer.”

Yet day after day, in boardrooms around the world, presenters set up their laptops and present way too much information to their disinterested audiences. Even if the audiences were initially interested in the topic, the presenter quickly makes them disinterested or confused by going into too much detail. Most of this detail is unwanted and unnecessary.

A presenter tends to be a subject area expert — that’s why they were selected to present. Subject area experts want to tell audiences everything they know about a subject. The product marketing guy doesn’t simply want to tell you about the two key benefits and the price of the product. He wants to tell you how the product was developed, the nine key design features, the 12 main benefits, and the 27 ways it can be deployed. The problem is that the audience doesn’t want all that information. It’s too much. It’s not digestible.

So, how can a passionate and knowledgeable presenter entice their audience? Here are three quick tips:

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Ottawa’s new innovation complex needs lots of parking. And maybe a few other things, too

Ian Scott presents Ottawa's plans for new innovation complex at Bayview YardsBy Francis Moran

Once they got past an inexplicable preoccupation with parking, participants at a focus group session last night had some good input for Ottawa’s economic development folks who are planning an ambitious innovation complex just west of the city’s downtown core. Ian Scott, an economic development officer in the city manager’s office, gave a presentation on the proposed new complex, slated as part of a complete community development plan for the near-derelict Bayview Yards, and then solicited feedback from the 50 or so people who turned out.

Suggestions ranged from the bizarre — one participant, harking back to days when out-of-town customers had nowhere nearby to stay when they visited Ottawa tech companies in Kanata, insisted a hotel had to be part of the development — to the obvious — restaurants and coffee shops. But folks also called for an inclusive facility where startups could launch and grow, where support services would be available, where a critical mass would build such that people, both tenants and others, would want to hang out, and where — and this was my chief contribution — serendipitous collisions could happen between those entrepreneurs and all elements of the startup ecosystem.

A lot of the discussion, though, focused on the negative in a way, I have to say — In fact, I did say — that is so bloody typical of this city.

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If you neglect your health, you are neglecting a crucial part of your business

fitnessBy Leo Valiquette

Back in March I walked into an Ottawa Chamber of Commerce event and volunteered to be the male half of a 10-week fitness challenge.

It was an impulse buy. It was also great timing. I been watching the gradual inflation of that fellow in the mirror for some time and was ready for an opportunity to do something about it. Like most people, I just needed a little nudge.

That 10-week challenge has turned into an ongoing commitment. After four months of effort, I have dropped 26 pounds (and continue to lose), trimmed at least four inches from my waist and added muscle mass I didn’t even have in my youth. I look better. I sleep better. I feel better. I am more productive and focused throughout the day. And while my doctor will have the final say on this, I believe I have even eliminated the need for the entry-level blood pressure meds I have been on for the past several years.

I regularly engage with entrepreneurs, business owners and busy professionals and it’s often all too easy to see where the toll of too many long hours tied to a desk or on the road eating from a super-sized menu add up. It’s one thing to be a young code jockey trying to write that next killer app, sustained by a regular diet of caffeine, energy drinks and cold pizza, and quite another to be one of us guys past 40 now obligated to get regular prostate checks. But the habits that you develop in your 20s easily entrench themselves for the decades to follow. And the pattern is no different for the ladies out there, for whom cardiovascular disease is now the number one killer in Canada.

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Identifying the invention

invention-bulbBy David French 

In preparing materials for a recent presentation I boldly summarized the patenting process as follows:

It’s very easy to obtain a patent. Just file an application … for a useful idea that includes a description on how to make it happen, and which specifies a feature that is new (done in one or more “claims”).

Easily said, but challenging to fully understand the consequences of these requirements.

The patent novelty requirement

Discussing these issues with aspiring inventors, I’ve come to realize that one of the sticking points in going forward is appreciating the feature that is being patented. This is the feature referenced above that must be “new.”

Inventors often do not fully appreciate the novelty requirement of patent law. Patents are not issued simply because an inventor has conceived of something which is useful. Patents only issue for things which are new. The Golden Rule of patent law is that a patent cannot take away from the public anything that was previously available. “Previously available” includes “obvious variants” on what was already known, disclosed, or put into use anywhere in the world, in any way, at any time prior to the filing of a patent application.

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