Growing from broke with brokers

OK, Ontario isn’t and never was broke but it is working from a projected $24.7B deficit as disclosed on October 2009. The Ontario Economic Summit (November 2009) brought together the best thinkers and doers (and maybe a few who can do both) to examine Ontario’s economic future and chart a way to economic recovery.
Over the weekend of January 29, 2010 the Provincial Government released the report of last November’s 6th Annual Ontario Economic Summit. The Summit is an annual event held at the White Oaks Resort in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Ontario Economic Summit (OES) brings together some of the most successful and influential leaders from business, government, labour, NGOs, and academia in a collaborative effort to help build increased economic prosperity in Ontario. With two hundred exclusively invited participants, the Annual Summit involves thought-provoking debates, one-of-a-kind networking, and inspiring new solutions for driving Ontario’s economy forward.
The report starts out with a shared sentiment of attendees, “What a Difference a Year Makes” reflecting on the beginning of economic recovery in Ontario. The report goes on to provide a synopsis of emerging themes from the event including: looking to Ontario’s future economy (old, new and green); an economic update of the US and Ontario economy; a conversation with the Premier; a knowledge driven creative economy; new investment; a green economy; tourism; infrastructure and the way forward.
This begs the question: amongst the economic elite of Ontario is there a role for knowledge mobilization? Where can knowledge brokers play in this economic landscape?
Below are some common threads drawn from the different themes expressed at the Summit and some thoughts on how those connect to what we have learned at ResearchImpact:

Ontario Economic Summit ResearchImpact
Need for high value-added business processes plugged into global supply chains and more of a focus on service Service industries draw their inputs from social sciences and humanities (SSH) (see Impact Group report); business process decisions are informed by social science research (business, management and finance)
Need for skills building both in governments and the private sector Skills needed are not science & engineering but business skills, the domain of SSH
There remains a need for social services provided by education and health care as delivered by civil society organizations Social services = classic KM
Increased need for collaboration across universities, governments, the private sector and NGOs including listening to consumers Listening to end users = classic KM;
Collaboration = co-production, the two way engagement of researchers and decision makers in the research process
Bring new ideas to the marketplace more quickly Getting new ideas into companies is the realm of technology transfer; making the right business decisions to get products from invention to implementation is the realm of SSH
Need to connect graduate education to key enterprises KM Interns

Dalton McGuinty summed it up by saying, “In a world where you can borrow money and copy technology, education and innovation are the two things that can grow the economy.”
Therein lies the KM connection.
Ontario’s leaders are recognizing that inputs from the social sciences (including, but not limited to, business, management and finance) are key to economic innovation and key to Ontario’s prosperity. This agrees with the June 2009 report from the Council of Canadian Academies titled, “Innovation and Business Strategy: Why Canada Falls Short”, which recommended that Canada’s innovation policy shift from a focus on R&D to a focus on understanding business decisions and business processes. By meeting industry’s need with university’s strengths in SSH research, KM can help Ontario and Canadian entrepreneurs become more competitive by being more innovative in their business decisions and business processes. As mentioned in the ResearchImpact video blog on November 11, 2009, KM can foster relationships between business and the university in disciplines that are relevant to industry but wholly ignored by provincial and federal university-industry liaison programs which focus instead on science and technology.
As KM practitioners we have the opportunity to broaden our service offerings and develop a value proposition for industry to connect industry to researchers and graduate students working in industry relevant SSH disciplines such as business, management, finance, law, design, industrial psychology, GIS, human resources, administrative studies, occupational health & safety, public health…
Working across the boundary of classic KM and classic university-industry liaison might be one piece in Ontario’s, and Canada’s, economic recovery. Look to Mobilize This! for more on KM and entrepreneurship in the Ontario context.
And one last thought… the Ontario Economic Summit report ended with the section: “Next Steps: Ideas to Action”. For four years ResearchImpact has been “turning research into action”. Ontario wants action.
KM anyone?