Challenging Perceptions by Changing Ourselves / Défier les à priori en nous transformant

“There has been a shift in focus over the last two decades or so, moving away from a concern around ‘productivity’ to an emphasis on ‘innovation’, and, as we have seen here in Canada with the federal government’s new innovation agenda, towards ensuring that considerations of social inclusion are included in any innovation strategies or frameworks.”

« Depuis 20 ans environ, on assiste à une réorientation des priorités qui nous éloigne du souci de “productivité”, pour nous rapprocher de l’“innovation” et – comme on l’a vu ici, au Canada, avec le nouveau programme du gouvernement fédéral – de l’inclusion des enjeux de la solidarité sociale dans toutes les stratégies et les structures d’innovation. »

This is how Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice Chancellor, York University, began his opening address to the 4th annual Post-Secondary Education & Skills Summit of the Conference Board of Canada on November 30, 2016. He charged the audience to “challenge perceptions by changing ourselves”. Seeking to set the tone for the ensuing two days, President Shoukri spoke of innovation, emerging technologies, mission driven research, talent and entrepreneurship to an audience made up of researchers, students, academic administrators, government and advocacy organizations.

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche was there.

President Shoukri at Conference Board of Canada

President Shoukri spoke about “Beyond Citations: Knowledge Mobilization, ResearchImpact and the Changing Nature of Academic Work”, the Conference Board of Canada’s report on the ResearchImpact network, which we wrote about in this blog on October 25, 2016. That report called on Canada to go beyond narrowly construed notions of technology commercialization and industry liaison and also embrace knowledge mobilization to more fully contribute to inclusive concepts of innovation. The report concludes “Universities need to invest in institutional supports, such as dedicated knowledge brokers, for knowledge mobilization, as they currently do for technology transfer and industry liaison”.

President Shoukri referred to the ResearchImpact network as creating a culture of knowledge mobilization in Canada. He said, “As its name suggests, the ResearchImpact network has been working to build and advance Canada’s knowledge mobilization and research impact culture across all areas of university research, including humanities, social sciences and the arts, so that we are generating research that is of value to society, and so that our research is getting into the hands of policy-makers, practitioners and decision-makers. This is a new, people-centred approach to research that also complements research agendas that traditionally have focused exclusively on tech transfer and commercialization.”

President Shoukri ended with a snapshot of what success would look like. His vision included:

• “Research with social value or mission-driven research that complements research and development with the work of knowledge mobilization more broadly; and
• More university and college partnerships with governments, not-for-profits and civil society.”

He then invoked the concepts underpinning inclusive innovation by recognizing the key role of non-academic partners in mediating impacts of research and the interconnectedness of our campuses with the public, private and civil society sectors.

“For our teaching and research to be truly valuable to society, for our graduates to be ready for the workplace, colleges and universities must be integrated into our communities—with government, with industry, with civil society—rather than islands.

The government has traditionally regarded the three areas of: economic growth, social justice and environmental sustainability as separate, but is now recognizing, along with the rest of society, that a more integrated approach is more effective.

This represents a key opportunity and key role for colleges and universities.”

Knowledge mobilization enables inclusive innovation by creating the conditions for collaborations that will maximize the impacts of research on Canadians. That truly is a key opportunity for colleges and universities and even for Canada.

The full text of President Shoukri’s remarks can be found on his website.

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