In general, innovation grants exist to support innovative, creative problem solving and new initiatives to enhance the character and quality of a community. Now being offered in a wide range of fields, they are a way of counteracting a grant funding system that is becoming increasingly conservative. As funds become harder to come by, many peer review panels are more and more risk adverse, emphasizing feasibility more than innovation.
The goal of innovation grants is to reward and encourage unconventional concepts, approaches, and methodologies in order to foster creativity, investigation, exploration and new opportunities.
1. Building community
A big part of what innovation grants do is help bring people working on similar ideas, with like-minded goals, together. Innovation grants gives creative minds the tools and resources they need to collaborate, think big, and innovate. A robust innovation system means that eventually new jobs and enterprises will be created, and that the whole community will benefit from better health, a cleaner environment, and ultimately a more vibrant way of life.
By investing in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, innovation grants can also help attract and retain the world’s top talent, to train and encourage the next generation of innovators to begin working on ideas that will strengthen the community and improve quality of life for all Canadians.
2. Available funding and support
Innovation grants exist in virtually all fields and reward new ways of thinking about everything from how we produce culture, to scientific and engineering research, to infrastructure development, agriculture and business initiatives.
In the 2017 budget, the Government of Canada actually introduced an Innovation and Skills Plan, which was designed to focus on people and address the changing nature of the economy to ensure it works for all Canadians. Intended to act specifically as a resource to help grow the middle class, the plan intends to build Canada as a world-leading innovation economy.
3. Key growth industries
Of course, contained in any plan is a focus on certain key initiatives. The global economy is becoming increasingly digital and the world is moving towards more sustainable ways of feeding people and providing energy to those who need it. Some of the industries currently experience the largest influx of innovation grant funds include clean technology, digital and agri-food. There is also a mandate to improve access to financing, encourage investment, support the demonstration of technologies and build the capacity necessary for Canadians to take advantage of growth opportunities and create good, well-paying jobs.
4. Lifelong learning
Ultimately, innovation starts with skilled, talented and creative people. Canada is already home to one of the best-educated workforces in the world, but in an increasingly competitive global economy, more needs to be done to ensure that Canadians can learn, adapt and have good jobs throughout their working lives. Innovation grants create opportunities for lifelong learning, so that the next job is also a better job.
5. Why they matter
Although we do live in a society that fetishizes daring entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, it is important to realize that most of the key advances in our technological, cultural and scientific infrastructure was built by the public sector. Although they typically partner with outside associates, government program are really a crucial ingredient in the growth of the private economy.
It is important that young creative minds feel they have options and that if they are willing to work hard to get them, there are resources available to help them make their dreams a reality. Innovation grants are all about imaging a better world, thinking outside the box, and making real change take place in our communities.