We sat down with IEC leader Karen Mazurkewich from MaRS to talk about the inspiration that spurred the creation of the IEC, how its reports and events are helping the innovation ecosystem in Canada, what’s next for the IEC, and more!
Q: The Innovation Economy Council started in 2020. Who came up with the idea and what challenges did they see that inspired its creation?
A: The Innovation Economy Council was founded in early 2020 by a group of industry leaders from hubs across Ontario. The impetus was to help secure and scale Canada’s innovation economy and in particular the realities facing the sector amid COVID and in a post-COVID world.
The IEC fills a gap in the ecosystem. There is a need to shine a light and share insights on key issues among the public and the press, policymakers and politicians. In the current climate, it’s important that we work together to quickly curate and generate data and insights – a sprint approach to building the innovation economy.
Q: The main goal of the IEC is to strengthen the Canadian innovation economy through boosting collaboration and increasing tech adoption. How does the IEC do this?
A: The IEC brings together CEOs from coast to coast for a true nationwide, peer to peer network. Together, we collaborate to produce journalistic, data-driven research papers aimed at shaping best practices for the growth of the innovation sector. Monthly broadcast events and quarterly CEO Summits provide an additional forum for the ecosystem to connect, share ideas and strategies. The report analysts and writers also work with the member organizations to tap into existing research and work with journalists to identify startups that are at the leading edge and have the potential to grow the Canadian economy and build talent. There is a lot of language around “building back better” but to do that we need to better understand what research and which companies can make a difference so we can focus on our strengths.
Q: What types of organizations make up the IEC? Why are these organizations important for reaching the IEC’s goals?
A: Our focus is on research institutions and innovation hubs – the leaders in the tech ecosystem. We have recently added a few corporate partners into the mix – companies like KPMG that can also bring their insights to the conversation and provide input on the key issues facing the innovation community.
Q: How are reports put out by the IEC creating a positive impact on the development and adoption of technology in Canada?
A: There are no shortage of reports and white papers pointing out Canada’s economic and talent gaps, net zero topics and innovation shortfalls. Some are fantastic, but enormous tomes that are often inaccessible. These reports are great for insiders, but in the age of information overload, we need more groups that curate, interpret and synthesize information for the overwhelmed stakeholders, and even for the general public. The IEC occupies the space between the tech and science experts and media platforms. Working with award-winning writers, we are able to not only surface interesting trends but we have created partnerships with media outlets to distribute this information to a broader audience. We are living in a world of misinformation and having a great report engine, supported by members able to convene and discuss issues, is critical. Policy makers, investors and ecosystem partners are seeking this kind of relatable information. The paper featuring Spark Centre is our ninth in just a year and a half and we have eight more in various stages of production.
Q: What are some recent successes to have come out of the IEC in the past year?
A: In addition to producing nine “pulse papers,” we started producing CEO Summits – bringing together experts from across Canada – to discuss key issues related to talent, supply chains, advanced manufacturing and more. Our broadcast events have attracted over 5,000 viewers, we have published numerous articles and Op-Eds, and our new newsletter immediately attracted more than 1,300 subscribers.