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This time last year Klaus Schwab introduced ingénue Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by making a bold prediction. “I couldn’t imagine anybody who could represent more the world which will come out of this Fourth Industrial Revolution,”...

Innovation key to fixing Trudeau's 'resourcefulness’ problem: Jennifer Wells | Toronto Star

This time last year Klaus Schwab introduced ingénue Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by making a bold prediction. “I couldn’t imagine anybody who could represent more the world which will come out of this Fourth Industrial Revolution,”...

Innovation key to fixing Trudeau's 'resourcefulness’ problem: Jennifer Wells | Toronto Star

This time last year Klaus Schwab introduced ingénue Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by making a bold prediction. “I couldn’t imagine anybody who could represent more the world which will come out of this Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Schwab said in his brief remarks prior to Trudeau’s inaugural address at the World Economic Forum at Davos.

The crowd loved him — Trudeau, that is.

This was the speech in which the PM moved to expunge the reputation left by predecessor Stephen Harper, who, said Trudeau, “wanted you to know Canada for its resources.” The new Canada, the new PM said, was all about “resourcefulness.”

Trudeau is giving Davos a pass this year, a late in the day change of heart in favour of a back-to-basics Canadian town hall tour.

You can think of the optics — the negative spin that would have been induced, on the heels of a New Year’s getaway to the Aga Khan’s private Bahamian island, by attending next week’s glittering global gathering.

Or you could think instead of the barriers that remain to Canada emerging as a standard bearer for this next revolution, which, as Schwab has written, will disrupt almost every industry in every country. What would Trudeau have to offer by way of an update?

First came steam power, then came electricity, then came the computer age. We don’t really know the full import of this fourth revolution. But we can question whether Canada has the component parts to emerge a winner.

“The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance,” wrote Schwab, who founded the World Economic Forum almost half a century ago. The lightning speed disruption could offer opportunities for equitable growth and fairer markets. Or, he wrote, “Organizations might be unable to adapt; governments could fail to employ and regulate new technologies to capture their benefits; shifting power will create important new security concerns; inequality may grow; and societies fragment.”

Last year Trudeau rightly trumpeted the University of Waterloo as a sparkling example of diversity and ingenuity.

Seven months later the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report rendered its assessment of the bigger picture, dropping Canada to 15th place from 13th, reversing the progress that had been made the year prior. Significantly, when it comes to innovation, Canada ranked 25th, behind Malaysia, Korea and Iceland. The most problematic factor for doing business? Insufficient capacity to innovate.

Fixing this will be key to Trudeau’s rebranding of the country away from resources to resourcefulness, attendant to and equally important as capital investments in infrastructure and ease of investment and trade.

By innovation, the WEF says governments must break the mould of old linear thinking of merely promoting R&D. “The capacity of a country to be innovative has to be thought of as an ecosystem that not only produces scientific knowledge but also enable all industries — including in the service sector — and society at large to be more flexible, interconnected, and open to new ideas and business models.”

How does that happen?

Modernizing education is a piece. Two key components: life long learning and teaching students to think critically.

Prodding the financial sector is another: more in the way of venture capital solutions.

Regulation: promoting an “entrepreneurial mindset and business agility.”

“To be truly innovative, a country should not only file patents and support research and development in science and technology, but should also provide a networked, connected environment that promotes creativity and entrepreneurship, fosters collaboration and rewards individuals who are open-minded and embrace new ways to perform tasks.”

Does the world see Canada this way?

No it does not.

Do we have the business dynamism and innovation capacity to be what the WEF calls an “innovation powerhouse?”

Clearly, no.

But we do know that Trudeau and his inner circle are betting they can take us there. This time next year Trudeau should head back to the Alpine enclave to explain to the world just how far he has got.

[email protected]

[email protected]

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