Evidence of meeting #49 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was technology.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Andrew Stuart  President and Chief Executive Officer, Isowater Corporation
Pierre-Luc Simard  Vice-President, Technology, Mirego Inc.
Marie D'Iorio  Executive Director, National Institute for Nanotechnology, National Research Council of Canada

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Bonjour à tous.

Welcome to the 49th meeting of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. We're continuing our study of disruptive technologies.

Today we're very fortunate to have with us Mr. Andrew Stuart, the president and chief executive officer of Isowater Corporation.

By the way, Mr. Stuart, I understand that we contacted you pretty well at the last minute and you were very gracious, so thank you very much for making an accommodation in your schedule.

We have Pierre-Luc Simard, the vice-president of technology at Mirego Inc. Welcome.

From the National Research Council of Canada, we have Marie D'Iorio, the executive director of the National Institute for Nanotechnology.

We'll go ahead with your opening remarks. We'll begin with Mr. Stuart and go ahead in the order of my introductions, and then we'll go to rounds of questions.

Please go ahead, Mr. Stuart.

11:05 a.m.

Andrew Stuart President and Chief Executive Officer, Isowater Corporation

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the committee members for allowing me to address the topic of disruptive technologies.

This is a very familiar subject. My life is focused on disruptive technologies. Today I would like to introduce myself, discuss the current efforts of Isowater Corporation in developing disruptive technology solutions, and provide some remarks regarding the importance of the role of government, including Industry Canada, to create a flourishing ecosystem for disruptive technologies.

First, on my background, I'm a graduate of McGill University and have a master's in applied science from the University of Toronto. In regard to my career, I am a listed inventor on seven patents. I've developed and sold products in five continents based on disruptive technologies, raised nearly $200 million to support the development of private sector capital to support the development of disruptive technologies, and have served on the board of three public companies engaged in technologies like these. I am currently part of the member council of Sustainable Development Technology Canada. As well, I'm on the board of directors of Learning for a Sustainable Future.

Prior to my work at Isowater, I led a team at Stuart Energy Systems to develop and commercialize water electrolysis-based hydrogen fuel systems for hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. This was a disruptive distributed generation approach to fuel supply that supplemented the conventional centralized generation supply of fuels.

Today I speak to you from the perspective of my involvement with another major disruptive technology. Isowater's mission is to change the nature of production and supply of deuterium oxide, probably better known to you as heavy water. Heavy water is the moderator and coolant of certain types of nuclear reactors, such as the CANDU system that we have here in Canada and deployed in various countries around the world.

In the past 50 years, heavy water has been produced in large chemical plants based on energy policy choices of governments and funded directly or indirectly through governments. As a consequence of heavy water being available to make nuclear-generated electricity, non-nuclear uses have emerged. Entities operating in these non-nuclear fields are Isowater's customers. The applications vary from the manufacture of better semiconductors and fibre optic cables to diverse life-science applications, such as new pharmaceuticals that last longer with fewer side effects, non-radioactive tracers for medical tests, and special research chemicals.

The disruptive feature that Isowater brings to the table is a novel, scalable technical approach to the production of heavy water that can be implemented based on private sector demand and private sector funding, instead of reliance on government policies in energy and on government funding.

Isowater's strategy builds on Canadian expertise in heavy water technology. We collaborate closely with Canada's premier science and technology laboratory at Chalk River, now operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories as part of the restructuring of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Together, we are transferring technology and products made for the nuclear industry into technology and products for the non-nuclear industry.

The Chalk River laboratory is one of Canada's pillars of disruptive technology development. We await with optimism the transformation of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories towards a government-owned and corporately operated, or GOCO, business model. This transformation is expected to start this summer and be completed by the fall.

A key message for this committee is the type of collaboration Isowater has with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. We're kind of like a canary in a coal mine, as I like to think of this. Isowater's efforts are considered as pioneering and leading the process of the engagement of small and medium-sized businesses with the lab. Key learnings are that patience is required. Business arrangements need to be made in ways that allow private sector capital to be invested, and government programs need to include support of innovative commercialization of the laboratory's know-how and assets.

I urge the standing committee to encourage Industry Canada and its programs to be used to ensure the new private operator expands business opportunities with small and medium-sized businesses. Canada and companies like Isowater need this laboratory and successful collaborations.

Finally, I would like to leave the committee with a few thoughts on an industry, science and technology agenda in Canada and what it will take to make successful Canadian entities operating in Canada thrive for the benefit of Canadians.

Last week I read an article which said:

America is blessed with an entrepreneurial culture that celebrates not what has been accomplished, but what's next. It has deep and efficient capital markets, the lifeblood of a dynamic economy, and no country has a greater capacity for technological innovation. That's a crucial source of future strength.

I contrast that with what my mother, Mary Alice Stuart, who was an accomplished business lady and an Order of Canada recipient, said to me when I was young, “Americans like to make money; Canadians like to count it”. Until that changes, America is destined for greater prosperity than Canada. By reference, I suggest the committee review former BlackBerry chairman Jim Balsillie's May 8, 2015 article in The Globe and Mail entitled “Canadians can innovate, but we’re not equipped to win”. He touches on the U.S. strengths and Canada's weakness with regard to intellectual property, protection, international trade agreements, university-industry collaboration, raising venture capital, and weaknesses in Industry Canada's 2008 report “Compete to Win”.

However, I'd also like to add some specific recommendations for pursuit of disruptive technologies. First, keep building the ecosystem in Canada for disruptive technologies. The references above are very helpful starting points for this. Programs like the industrial research assistance program, IRAP, NSERC student programs, scientific research and experimental development tax credits, foundations like Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and the FedDev program are a few of the key Canadian capacity-building tools for disruptive technology.

No company can develop world-class disruptive technology without export markets being the dominant marketplace. Our trade commissioners are a great resource for small and medium-size business. Export Development Canada has made tremendous efforts over the past 20 years to address the needs of small to medium-sized businesses. Their accounts receivable program opened doors for us in markets such as China and the U.S.

Our conventional banks and the BDC need further structural help to address the working capital requirements for businesses with intangible assets developing disruptive technologies.

The highest priority of Industry Canada with regard to disruptive technology should be to ensure the ecosystem for Canadian entities' full life cycle exists in Canada. The good news is that we have many of these in place, but they need help, and the ones not in place need to be put in place. Fortunately, Industry Canada works with other federal ministries such as Finance, Natural Resources Canada, International Trade, as well as the provinces, to form a Canadian strategy.

Capital markets, intellectual property arrangements, universities, industrial partners, and entrepreneurs add to this complete ecosystem that will support disruptive technologies in Canada and their global success for the benefit of Canada and Canadian prosperity.

Thank you.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

Thank you very much, Mr. Stuart.

Mr. Simard, the floor is yours.

11:10 a.m.

Pierre-Luc Simard Vice-President, Technology, Mirego Inc.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I am pleased to appear before the committee to share with you the expertise that Mirego has developed in defining and developing products for our clients. Mirego's activities are principally in the area of mobility. We create mobile applications for our clients and for their users, both web-based and native.

Mirego's history involves a focus on mobility and its associated products. As a product designer, Mirego is centred on the interests of our clients and their users. Often, it is we who have to find a balance between users seeking to get the most value and simplicity from the way in which the products can be used, and our clients seeking a return on investment, in terms of either finances or involvement. As designers, we, of course, are seeking to create innovative products of the highest possible quality.

Since the arrival of smartphones and their constant connection with the Internet, the way in which people communicate and work has been transformed. It affects the telecommunications industry and is now a feature of other industries. The media have felt the impact on their business models, notably in terms of the changes in how and when their content is consumed. Insurers too have had to change the way in which they accept claims and evaluate risk in order to stay in tune with their clients' new habits in using smartphones.

The constant Internet access that mobile devices make possible is only one facet of the changes they bring. Indeed, a number of other transformations are imminent. Principally, they come as a result of the more recent generations of devices that, comparatively speaking, have more computing capacity than the computers of three or five years ago.

This computing capacity, which is remarkable in such small devices, comes as the result of sensors that allow the capture of a huge amount of data about the environment where the device is located. This involves a new way of gathering data and a greater ability to process the data in real time. For example, access to the GPS data of a large number of mobile devices already allows companies like Google and Apple to look at the traffic on the roads and alert users to various points of congestion. Similarly, a startup company is now trying to use the altimeters in millions of smartphones to measure barometric pressure in many places in real time. This will per se improve meteorological models and result in more accurate forecasts.

In the same way, the accelerometers in smartphones let the owners know about the number of steps they have taken and the total distance they have covered without them having to capture the information or disclose the way in which it is used. By using several sensors simultaneously, a software developer can now deduce a lot of information about the situation in which users find themselves. Some kinds of software, like Google Now on an Android phone, can find out where users have parked their cars without them having recorded that information.

The increasing numbers of sensors that mobile devices can have, directly connected with the device, or via accessories like smart watches, combined with the devices' almost permanent connectivity, has already changed the way in which we conduct our activities and the way in which we gather data. This is about more than the sensors in mobile devices, it is also that they are constantly at our side and are now the repository of very personal information about us.

In the past year, new information about the lifestyle and the health of users has become available to application developers. This information, which is only available to the applications if the users permit it, is very personal indeed. It is also extremely valuable for a number of industries. We need only think about medical research, which, through the applications, can now access a good number of health indicators, including how treatments are being followed.

Data such as heart rate, blood pressure, the level and intensity of physical activity were previously difficult to gather and required the user to take notes and report the data over long periods of time. Today, that data can be gathered almost automatically, or by using reminders. The data can be transmitted to researchers almost instantaneously. It can be shown that, in recent months, it has been possible to conduct medical studies using smartphones by working with research centres in the United States and publishing in ResearchKit.

Mobile devices at the centre of information collection can not only move research forward by collecting more specific data more often, but they can also permit daily monitoring of patients and their treatment protocols.

It is well understood that, to achieve that kind of transformation, private information must be shared. With time, we are seeing that sharing sensitive information between services and users is becoming more and more acceptable for the latter. A Gallup poll in the United States shows clearly, however, that members of generation Y still expect the information they are sharing to be private, despite the various leaks of confidential information that have occurred in the media in recent years. It goes without saying that it is in the interests of designers and service operators to keep the data confidential and, at the same time, to provide users with the greatest value possible for the data with which they are entrusted.

The fact that the general public has access to such highly developed mobile devices makes for business models that were impossible until very recently. For example, if the customers of a car insurance company have smartphones, the company can measure the quality of their driving and more precisely evaluate their risk levels without having to spy on them or to use tests to evaluate their driving. The insurer's production costs are greatly reduced as a result. In return for sharing the data, the customers can get a rate that more fairly reflects their driving.

The real and transformational changes that mobility can bring with it require a greater tolerance for risk and an ability to see beyond the novelty effect. In the same way as office computers transformed our way of working at all levels, the ubiquity of mobile devices will bring major changes. As a result, we must give innovating companies the manoeuvring room they need in order to explore and perfect new ideas and to experiment with new products. This must all be done by protecting them from regulatory and business decisions that are motivated by the fear of change, by a lack of tolerance for risk, or by pressure exerted by those who are affected by the change.

At Mirego, we work with clients who are looking to bring about profound changes. That requires us to be visionaries. Daring to innovate, or even to reinvent what already exists, in order to provide a remarkable improvement that can change people's lives requires experimentation, research and a great deal of creativity. These technologies allow us to do just that; we believe that we have only just begun.

Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting me to testify before the committee today.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

Thank you, Mr. Simard.

We'll go to Marie D'Iorio, please.

11:20 a.m.

Marie D'Iorio Executive Director, National Institute for Nanotechnology, National Research Council of Canada

Good morning, and thank you for the invitation to testify as a witness.

My name is Marie D'Iorio, and I'm the executive director of the National Institute for Nanotechnology, NINT for short, based in Edmonton. It is a partnership between the National Research Council and the University of Alberta, and it is funded by both the federal and the provincial governments. It was established in 2002 as one of NRC's cluster initiatives. The state-of-the-art facility opened its door on the campus of the University of Alberta in 2006.

The NINT strategy is based on a collaboration that transforms discoveries made in a university setting into technologies that can be integrated into potential products for the market. This is done by combining the creativity of university researchers with the expertise and discipline of NRC researchers who focus on integration, manufacturing and the cost-to-performance ratios of the materials and the devices on which they are working

NINT works in an interdisciplinary way to develop materials and devices with the potential of leading to differential or disruptive technologies in electronics, energy and medicine.

As was observed by Dan Wayner, vice-president of emerging technologies at NRC, at the committee's May 7 meeting, the term “disruptive technology” refers to a profound or discontinuous change in capability or cost-performance ratio with significant economic and social impacts. Sometimes this happens through technology integration or technology remix. It is the deployment in the marketplace that is disruptive, rather than the technology itself.

In order for Canada to be competitive in the development and deployment of disruptive technologies, there must be collaboration across innovation systems. By that I mean the universities, the research technology organizations, government regulators, and industry. No single entity can do it all.

Collaboration is a necessary but insufficient condition for success. It also requires vision combined with deep subject expertise, a high tolerance for risk, patient investment, and acceptance, if not the embrace, of failure. These are tied of course to risk-taking fortitude and entrepreneurial spirit on the part of people doing that work.

I would like to provide a few examples of disruptive technologies, starting first of all with the work underway at NINT.

For more than 20 years, the NRC has been investing in nanoelectronics, because, with current computers, miniaturization and the cost-to-performance ratio have reached their limit.

How do we meet that challenge? One of our researchers, Professor Bob Wolkow, has developed the knowledge to build a computer that is extremely fast. It operates at room temperature and uses very little power. It is a revolutionary concept because no other architecture meets all of those criteria.

Have the conditions for the development of disruptive technology been met? If we look at collaboration, for example, the NRC, the University of Alberta, NSERC, the Government of Alberta, and Lockheed Martin support the research and the development of technologies to demonstrate this type of computer.

In terms of vision, universities, research technology organizations such as NRC, and industry have recognized that quantum computing is part of the world's future and can generate wealth for Canada.

In terms of risk tolerance, there are still many obstacles to overcome in order to get a manufacturable computer of that type, and others may win the race, but in so doing, we will be learning a lot, and that will help us with the next race.

As for patient investment, it has been more than 10 years in the making, so yes, we are patient, and we have to continue being patient so that we can get to the goal.

Professor Wolkow has spun off a company called Quantum Silicon Inc. He has attracted $2.5 million of seed funding to carry on with the technology demonstration. It is part of the story of Canada's leadership in the field of quantum computing worldwide.

Before joining NINT in Edmonton, I directed the Institute for Microstructural Sciences in Ottawa, which now comes under the NRC's information and communications technology portfolio.

One of the best examples of disruptive technologies in this area is in optic communications. In 1987, a researcher was able to convince the management team of the day that an emerging technology in the United States should be developed in Canada. He said that the technology would replace information-carrying cables in a network by light, the various wavelengths of which would carry the information. By dividing light into its different wavelengths, it would be possible to send more information in parallel and thereby increase the speed and the capacity of the networks.

While this seemed a wild idea in 1987, its realization would increase data transmission by more than 100 times and diminish issues of signal strength over long distances. Given that foresight, what convinced NRC to take the risk and invest in the optical communications race?

The management team had the breadth of knowledge and the scientific judgment to understand that Canada's excellence in material science and photonics was a competitive advantage in that race. They reduced the risk by forming a consortium to build the technology and bring the technology to market, ensuring that the members of the consortium would have full access to the intellectual property once the technology was developed. They also introduced the rigour of project management to focus the effort of the technical team on the delivery against milestones.

That consortium of Canadian companies, universities, NRC, and NSERC focused the efforts of part of the personnel of the institute at the time on developing what was called wavelength division multiplexing. While the nature of the work to be undertaken was clearly pre-competitive in nature, a technology demonstration outcome was chosen from the outset. It was to be the precursor to developing photonic integrated circuits for optical telecommunication.

The work of the consortium was funded for seven years. It led to the creation of many Canadian spinoffs—four from NRC—the rise of Nortel, and the capture of 40% of the optical communications market by Canadian companies by the year 2000. By 2010 the return on investment from this disruptive technology was 400:1 in Canada alone.

Another example of the role of government in the disruptive technology space is the support of companies when they are ready to demonstrate their technology and they need low-volume manufacturing and packaging capabilities in Canada. This story is actually a continuation of the previous one. After the success of the Solid State Optoelectronic Consortium, as it was known, the same visionaries reflected on what was required to help Canadian companies be competitive and generate wealth in Canada.

At the time, many Canadian spinoffs were failing because they could not afford to maintain state-of-the-art facilities to demonstrate their technologies. The concept supporting the potentially disruptive technologies was one of a photonic fabrication centre that could support companies with a design and low-volume manufacturing of photonic devices like lasers and so on. It was funded in 2002. The Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre was, at the time, one of very few worldwide. It attracted clients from around the world, and some of them actually established a presence in Canada in order to benefit from this fabrication centre. A few years later, the majority of the clients of the CPFC were Canadian. By 2010 the return on investment of the CPFC was 10:1, so it obviously addressed a need of the companies.

I would like to conclude by emphasizing that Canada is well placed to support the development and deployment of disruptive technologies if it encourages collaboration, vision, risk-taking, long-term investment and the acceptance of failure as an integral part of the innovation system. Failure is part of learning, but it also allows us to gauge whether there really are risks to be taken rather than relying on sure bets. A culture of entrepreneurship in an ecosystem formed around innovation must accept failure so that success can be so much more rewarding.

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

Thank you, Ms. D'Iorio.

Now to Mr. Carmichael for eight minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Thank you to our witnesses for taking time to join us today.

Mr. Stuart, you quoted Mr. Balsillie saying that Canadians can innovate, but we’re not equipped to win. Clearly, the three of you being here today is demonstration that we are looking for answers on how to equip to win, so I thank you for being here. I hope you've had a chance to read through some of the previous testimony of witnesses who have appeared. We've received some very thoughtful, creative, and I think very helpful information from previous witnesses in terms of trying to achieve that very goal. Equipping to win is without question what we need to accomplish as we go forward.

Mr. Stuart, I'll start with you. I appreciated your testimony on Isowater and some of the issues. You talked about moving from the nuclear to the non-nuclear market, the fast pace of change obviously in technology today, and the highly competitive nature of industry, which demonstrate that there's a need for continual product enhancement. That's obviously what you are working on.

I wonder if you could give us a bit of an overview of your firm's plan in terms of maintaining your leading edge in the nuclear sector. How are you meeting your challenges as you face the non-nuclear sector, and what advice could you give industry and us, as government, in this regard?

11:30 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Isowater Corporation

Andrew Stuart

Thank you for that question.

We're maintaining our lead on the nuclear side by focusing on the non-nuclear, somewhat paradoxically. What provides us opportunity in the non-nuclear sector is you have a diverse array of customers, and in our particular area with deuterium oxide or heavy water, they're so unconnected, from semiconductors to pharmaceuticals, it provides the ingredients of being able to move with market pull from multiple diverse users of small to medium quantities of heavy water. The challenge on the nuclear side is that you've only got one, two, or three giant users who need everything or nothing. We can bridge the supply and demand by working with the non-nuclear sector, doing smaller quantities, and we can scale up with them.

We have a wonderful program with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. It's a three-stage program where we're marketing some of the surplus inventory of heavy water that the Government of Canada owns into the non-nuclear market, developing the customer relationships. We're also working with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to develop a refinery or a recycling tool at the Chalk River laboratories, where we'll be working with our customers in the non-nuclear sectors who use the heavy water, downgrade it isotopically and then can provide it back to us to upgrade back to the high purity they need for their process.

We extend the life of the finite inventory. We advance the technology for enrichment or production of heavy water with very modern technology. Finally, we're building the pathway, or the bridge, to private sector market pull saying, “I need 10 tonnes here; I need 12 tonnes here; I need 3 tonnes there”, who can create the financing conditions to allow the private sector to raise the capital and invest in a scalable production technology to take natural water and enrich that to the very high purity of deuterium oxide or heavy water, the deuterium component of natural water.

It's a three-step project. It's a really wonderful way of looking at how a private sector entrepreneurial firm can work with a government entity, which is now being transformed to this private sector operator entity. Really what we need is to make sure that the private sector operator at AECL doesn't close doors, that it opens them.

June 2nd, 2015 / 11:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

If you wouldn't mind, let's talk about disruptive technology within that thought process. What are you doing that is disruptive to an industry that exists?

11:35 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Isowater Corporation

Andrew Stuart

Fundamentally, the supply of heavy water is going to disappear, and there won't be new supply unless someone does something about it. We're using these new markets and new technology advancements, together with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, to create private sector production in a very novel manner that's never been made this way anywhere in the world before.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Great, thank you.

Mr. Simard, I appreciate your testimony on the bridge. I don't know if your company is taking Mr. Stuart's mother's advice as far as counting our profitability is concerned. It doesn't sound like it. Even though you're in the top 500 profitable companies, I don't think you're taking that advice.

I wonder if you could talk about, when it comes to disruptive technologies, what areas you see Canada as having strength today, and where the private sector, government, and academic institutions should focus their efforts.

11:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Technology, Mirego Inc.

Pierre-Luc Simard

There's a kind of twofold answer to that question. Where does Canada stand insofar as disruptive technology is concerned? We work with a number of partners in different industries, such as insurance, media, and so forth. What we've been able to see is a very clear opening from the academic side on creating research and working with industry in creating new ways of bringing services to customers. The problem we're seeing is the financing of the research has been either hard to do or very small in scale. We think Canada has tremendous research opportunities and very high academic levels, but the bridge between that industry and a group like ours that can work to the end customers needs to be facilitated a bit more. Perhaps that answers your question.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

When you talk about the financing needs, from the perspective of innovation and creativity through to commercialization, is it the gap that's the problem for you as well?

11:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Technology, Mirego Inc.

Pierre-Luc Simard

Yes, it is. We see very good research happening on the academic side, but the biggest gap is not being able to transfer that through industry and our not being able to take research that's been done and apply it to different industries afterwards.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

As a country, where do you see our strengths in the industry today? Are we doing anything right?

11:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Technology, Mirego Inc.

Pierre-Luc Simard

The investment, I can see more from the Quebec side where we are based is, the investments being done in university, in specifically computer science and software, have been noted. We're seeing a big improvement in the quality and the grade of the students that are coming out. It is a big improvement and we're looking forward to that continuing in that we seem to be investing a lot in more hardware research. If we make the BlackBerry analogy, we're good at making phones, but we're also very good at making the software that goes in them. I think being able to invest in the software layer of the solution is one of the places where we can make a difference.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

Thank you, Mr. Simard and Mr. Carmichael.

Ms. Papillon now has the floor for eight minutes.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is a pleasure to welcome a Quebec company to Ottawa. Thank you for coming to meet with us, Mr. Simard. I have a few questions for you.

In describing your company's vision, your website says:

Technologies become useless, capital dwindles and competitive advantages slowly disappear, but the right people will always allow an organization to excel, reinvent itself and survive change. Instead of putting a spoke in their wheels, we think businesses should offer people the freedom and the environment to enable them to reach their full potential.

Are Canadian companies a little too conservative when it comes to reinventing themselves? If so, what is the mindshift we need to happen here?

11:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Technology, Mirego Inc.

Pierre-Luc Simard

Not all Canadian businesses are conservative. There is an increasing openness to change, first because it meets a need. One effort I can applaud is the one by our partner, La Presse, which was able to reinvent how the newspaper is made. There was obviously a business need there. The newspaper's managers were able to finance the risk using their own money, which is not necessarily the case for all Canadian companies.

It isn't necessarily a lack of vision, but it is sometimes more a lack of means that prevents businesses from taking the risk of failing, as we said, to finally finding the recipe that will allow them to reinvent themselves. But it's often difficult to take this risk.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

What are the main obstacles that a company like yours might face when it's trying to implement new technologies?

11:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Technology, Mirego Inc.

Pierre-Luc Simard

Implementing new technologies in part involves change management. The entire organization must be a stakeholder in this change. It often affects more than one individual because it touches an entire group of workers. The difficulty often lies in human resources management rather than in the technological aspect of the change.

A number of technologies can add a lot, but the individuals must also be willing to change the way they do things. There are a few examples of that. In journalism, access to the product and the content have to be changed. For information media, how the rights are attributed needs to be changed somewhat. In medicine, the way people work with confidential information must be changed.

Often, the way things are done prevents things from moving forward, more often than the rules or individuals.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

If you could ask the federal government to adopt a single measure to help your business excel in new technologies and innovation, what would it be?

11:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Technology, Mirego Inc.

Pierre-Luc Simard

It would be to increase funding for research and development and to promote it. Often, we have an idea, but we have to be willing to run a risk. This funding would enable businesses to agree to fund the risk. They would do it in partnership with the government.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

I would also like to address the issue of the growing number of business incubators in the area of new technologies. What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of that kind of development?