First of all, I want to thank the committee for holding these hearings to address the important issue of intellectual property and tech transfer. As a tech entrepreneur, I can tell you this is long overdue. I appreciate being given the opportunity to speak here today.
In addition to being the executive director of North of 41, I'm also the president and CEO of a software company called Dynamite Network, based in Toronto. We build software for companies and focus on artificial intelligence. As a company, we've partnered with academic organizations and institutions over the years, including the University of Western Ontario, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Toronto. We've also partnered with colleges such as Niagara College and Sheridan.
We have received funding, both federally and provincially, so I feel that I have a unique perspective to bring to this committee because I have first-hand knowledge as to the positives and negatives in the area of IP and tech transfer.
As I said, in addition to running Dynamite, I'm also the executive director of North of 41, which is a tech-based organization with over 12,000 members. The organization's membership base is comprised of tech entrepreneurs like me, whose companies are in the hypergrowth phase of their business life cycle.
As part of the organization's mandate, North of 41 hosts programming for its members through various events, everything from tech-focused round tables to—and I see some familiar faces—hosting Tech Day here on Parliament Hill, which we did last May and will be doing again this October.
As part of that Tech Day initiative, North of 41 recently launched an online platform called the “Canadian innovation town hall” to encourage communication between all levels of government, bureaucrats, and tech entrepreneurs. The purpose of the online portal is to allow political stakeholders unfiltered access to tech entrepreneurs in an ad hoc industry advisory capacity.
This summer, North of 41 will also be releasing its research paper, “Innovation to Prosperity”, which discusses and provides recommendations in order to improve and support Canada's innovation policy.
There are five key areas that this committee has chosen to undertake. I'm here today to focus specifically on item number three, which was identifying incentives for researchers to register intellectual property, and item number four, incentives and practices for the private sector to identify and utilize post-secondary intellectual property.
I've been following the hearings closely, and I wanted to say I agree with one of the presenters who said a couple of weeks ago that we should “look at this as knowledge transfer as opposed to tech transfer”, because that's in essence what it is.
To give some current context in terms of the tech industry, in order for Canada to have a prosperous tech sector and to compete on the global stage as a country, we must have a robust and effective intellectual property program. It must allow for industry and academia to both achieve their objectives and at the same time increase the overall knowledge base of the tech sector. It's imperative for all stakeholders to be rowing the boat, as they say, in the same direction.
The size of Canada's tech sector is relatively small when compared to other jurisdictions around the world. Having said that, as a country, Canada punches above its weight class as it relates to the tech sector. To put it into context, I remind people that the entire population of Canada is equivalent to the total population of the State of California, yet despite our relatively small size, we've developed expertise in specific areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, fin tech, and biotech, just to name a few.
Being world leaders in these areas allows Canadian tech entrepreneurs to compete on the world stage. No longer is it Canadian tech entrepreneurs versus Canadian tech entrepreneurs. It's Canadian tech entrepreneurs versus the world. In this country, intellectual property can be considered the digital resource of the new Canadian economy. Just as Canada's natural resources are viewed as a national asset, so too should tech sector innovation.
Our North of 41 group has identified two areas we need to address. The first is cost as it relates to preparing patent applications. The second is a need to have a central registry for post-secondary R and D for industry entrepreneurs to access.
I'm a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School. I'm considered a tech geek with a law degree, so I'm a unique individual.
I know I'm going to anger some of my former classmates when I say that the costs associated with filing for intellectual property protection have never been higher. This limits the filing of any IP protection to those with significant financial means, and it presents a problem because typically the entrepreneurs who are developing groundbreaking new technology do not have large sums of money to spend on IP protection.
I've filed a couple of patents myself, so I've gone through the entire process, and it is not an easy process. I think it would be made easier with some changes. Currently, when it comes to filing patents, most entrepreneurs are faced with the choice of spending financial resources on IP protection or taking those same resources to further their tech development. The general consensus among tech entrepreneurs in our North of 41 group is that technology changes so quickly that, by the time a patent is filed, reviewed, and issued, the technology in most cases is obsolete. Further, if a patent is in dispute, the cost and time to litigate far exceeds any monetary settlement. In order to encourage the filing of IP protection and therefore increasing the book value of innovation by Canadian tech entrepreneurs, the system of filing patents and adjudicating disputes must be streamlined.
In addition to cost, there's a need for industry to understand areas of R and D that the university and colleges are doing. I'm sure within the government setting there is a register, but it's not something that's easily accessible by industry.
Knowledge transfer is also a concept that must be embraced between industry and academia. Traditionally, academia has a strong track record of developing innovative technology, and conversely, a weak track record of commercializing it. One of industry's strengths, on the other hand, is commercializing and getting the technology to market. Having a free flow of knowledge transfer is critical for Canada's innovation economy to prosper. A patent is virtually worthless unless there is a path to commercialization. Job growth only occurs if technology is commercialized. Once that technology is commercialized, only then are companies able to scale it out, which in turn leads to job growth in the tech sector. There needs to be better communication between those who are creating technology and those individuals who are looking at commercializing opportunities.
In terms of the government's role, I believe the government's role is to bring the parties to the table, not to try to do the work of academia or industry. Instead, government must create an environment that will allow innovation to flourish. Government's role is not to pick the winners or losers; neither is it the role of academia or industry. In fact, this is the role of the marketplace. From a global perspective, Canada's tech industry has a very good reputation and has all the necessary attributes to compete on the global stage, but we must act now in order for it to continue to grow.
Those are my opening remarks. I look forward to answering any questions that you may have.