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 Canadian Chamber Chair and IBM Vice President, Pat Horgan, addresses Edge participants.

Photo: Canadian Chamber Chair and IBM Vice President, Pat Horgan, addresses Edge participants.

Collaboration is absolutely critical to overcoming Canada’s poor innovation record and skills gap. Inspiring examples of collaboration were among the highlights of the Competitive Edge, which brought together leaders in business, education and the chamber community on May 29 in Markham, Ontario. 

Stimulating speakers shared their best practices in fostering innovation and entrepreneurism and cultivating talent for the future. Renowned demographer and economist David Foot launched the day with a wide-ranging presentation, convincing us that “demographics is two-thirds destiny.” The population pyramid of our community or region or country really helps explain and predict so many economic and social developments, wherever you may live.

Ryerson University’s Sheldon Levy highlighted zone education as an innovative approach to encouraging students to become entrepreneurs. Experiential learning, including co-op programs, really needs expanding, according to Seneca College president, David Agnew. Canadian Chamber Chair and IBM Vice President, Pat Horgan, stressed the need to catch young people early in their education to attract them to in-demand fields. He also spoke of how universities are coalescing around “big data” research with IBM for real-world benefits.

York Region is host to many leaders in innovation and collaboration. “Imagineering” is the approach of Dr. David Williams of Southlake Regional Health Centre. He is making health care an economic driver, rather than an economic drain. VentureLAB’s Jeremy Laurin is demonstrating how entrepreneurs can thrive in a collaborative eco-system. Newmarket Chamber of Commerce’s Karen Dubeau brings to life how chambers can connect businesses with key players and mobilize knowledge in communities.

In an armchair discussion, I probed BlackBerry SVP Sebastien Marineau-Mes on how the company will stay innovative, and why employers under-invest in talent and R&D. As Sebastien said, they need the talent to fuel the company, and they need to prime the pump for talent. Ultimately, talented people want to work where innovation is happening.

We simply cannot be complacent if Canada wants a competitive edge.

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