Canada 3.0 speaker suggests re-branding Canada

Lofty ideas from high-profile speakers are just around the corner as government, academia and industry gears up for Canada 3.0. The two-day forum, dedicated to discussions on how Canada can position itself as a leader in the digital economy, kicks off on May 10 in Stratford, Ont.

Canada has the potential to re-brand itself as the go-to nation for innovation around the globe, according to Tony Chapman, CEO of Toronto-based branding and advertising agency Capital C.

Scheduled to deliver the first keynote speech, Chapman will present his concept of the Launch Lab – an idea that can turn ideas into reality. The biggest obstacle to getting good ideas off the ground is that there are too many ideas out there, he said. 

The world today is awash in ideas and concepts, said Chapman. “We are so digitally enabled and globally connected that it is no longer the United States or Japan or a handful of corporations that are innovating – we are seeing innovation everywhere,” he said.

The focus is no longer about getting capital to validate ideas for 12 to 18 months, he said. You need to get your idea to market quickly and get your intellectual protocol in place to protect it — it’s now about getting the first-mover advantage, he said. 

“You might have the best idea in the world, but if it can’t rise about the clutter and stand and be validated, not only are you going to have difficulty getting your capital, you are going to have difficulty even putting together the complexity of the launch,” he said.

The world is producing so many ideas and so much innovation that a lot of these great ideas are now starving for the attention and intellectual capital they need in order to determine if the idea is simply a concept or something that could have tremendous traction, he said.

And this is where the Launch Lab, a bricks-and-mortar establishment that takes conceptual ideas and turns them into ideas that can be launched in the market, comes in.

Chapman envisions the Launch Lab as a centralized hub combining technology and intellectual capital to serve as a place where innovators – such as inventors, multi-national corporations and nations – bring their ideas to.

The Launch Lab fast-tracks the process of validating the proof of concept and determines where the idea would be viable in markets around the world as well as the best way to go after that demand, he said. It’s a one-stop place to determine what you need to put an idea in place and achieve your goals in less time and at a lower cost than if you did it on your own, he said.

The idea starts with one Launch Lab, but Chapman envisions multiple lab locations built across Canada that would focus on particular industry sectors, such as environment, water, pharmaceuticals or sustainable farming.

Launch Labs could give Canada that edge in the digital economy by acting as a consultant on ideas worldwide. “I want us to be the country that fast tracks and give you that first mover advantage, rather than us just contributing to that pile of innovation,” said Chapman.

He also sees the Launch Lab as a means of re-inventing Canada’s brand to the world. “This is the place where innovator’s innovate. This is the place where they set themselves up to perfect how to launch ideas and concepts and new operating models,” he said.

Chapman believes Canada is well-positioned for the concept. “We are known as a tolerant society, we have an incredibly multi-cultural nation that we can draw upon to help us understand these different markets, we’ve got a lot of intellectual capital in the country,” he said.

The concept would require a major collaborative effort between the public, private and academic sector, he said.  

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) collected 70 other ideas inspired by Canada 3.0 from individuals across the country through an online crowd sourcing competition called Canada’s Digital Compass.

“What we are trying to do is point out all the creative ideas that are out there and then individuals can grab those ideas and try to make use of them in a practical sense,” said Jerry Brown, associate partner at PwC in Toronto.

The competition, which ran from March to May, gathered ideas in five subject areas: technology, education, media production, connectivity and policy development.

Three winning ideas received publicity from PwC and tickets to the Canada 3.0 forum. “This was intended to spark creative thought and give people a chance to be out there,” said Brown. Exactly how the ideas will be used is still a grey area, he said.

But the next step for individuals with good ideas in general is funding, said Brown. “There are a ton of different funding agencies out there, whether they are federal or provincial. Plus, there are academic institutions (and) there are groups that are interested in supporting start-ups,” he said.

Winners were selected based on votes from the Web and a panel of judges from Research in Motion Ltd., Google Inc., Astral Media Inc., Canpages Inc. and PwC.

Brady Gilchrist won for “World leadership in digital health care,” Russell Fordham for “Digital literacy for all Canadians,” and Alan Sawyer for “Implement temporary advertising tax credits to stimulate Canadian-based online video distribution.”

Barbara Bailie, director of interactive at Astral Media and one of the panel judges, found ideas related to broadband penetration in rural areas and one that suggested Canada use its natural resources to host an international cloud infrastructure also interesting candidates.

“In terms of economic impact, I know a lot of people who live in remote areas and better Internet access means they could actually have jobs, which means other communities could spread up around them in terms of education,” she said.

But one of the big obstacles is getting people to invest, according Bailie. “It will take money to bring these ideas to fruition, especially technology,” she said.

Another challenge is developing a good business plan and implementing it properly in order to have a success story, she said. “You may develop this great technology, but if you don’t have a great proof of concept that really works in an organization, then you’re not exactly a world leader,” she said.

Canada is losing its edge compared to the rest of the world, said Bailie. “We could be world leaders – instead, you are going to get more innovation eventually coming out of India or China,” she said.

“Everybody should have a chance … but if we are going to remain relevant and are going to have economic growth, we have to get faster and better at this than we have been in the past,” she said.

Canada 3.0 is co-hosted by the Canadian Digital Media Network and the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus.

Follow me on Twitter @jenniferkavur.