This issue has driven me absolutely nuts since I first arrived in Canada from Silicon Valley. It did not take me long to figure out that things did not work they way they did in California, and that there wasn’t much of a true entrepreneurial economy here. Since then, I have also been appointed to the Canada Foundation for Innovation grant process, providing me with insight into how R&D funding works in Canada. I have seen many issues in Canada that have impaired the nation’s ability to develop an entrepreneurial culture, among them is the inherent Canadian conservatism and short term horizon of investors unfamiliar with technology venture investment. But none has been worse than Canada’s decades-long neglect of adequate funding for research and development nationwide.
The sale and breakup of a flagship technology company is a reoccurring theme in Canadian business. But this time is different. If BlackBerry Ltd.goes, there is no ready replacement. That’s a telling switch from the situation Canada faced with the sale of Newbridge Networks in 2000 and the demise of Nortel Networks in 2009. More than a decade of declining business investment in research and development has left Canada without an obvious BlackBerry successor. Despite bright spots in Waterloo, Ont., and Ottawa, the country’s performance on most of the important benchmarks of innovation has been deteriorating for years.