9 in 10 executives say innovation is a top strategic priority: Survey

Attracting and retaining innovative people, collaboration key to success

Canada ranks in the top quartile for innovation worldwide, along with Germany, Japan and the United States, according to a recent survey. Almost 9 in 10 (87 per cent) Canadian executives report innovation is a strategic priority for their business, and 96 per cent believe that small and medium enterprises and individuals can be as innovative as large companies, found the Global Innovation Borometer, released by GE.

Canadian business executives identified increased collaboration as one of the keys to successful innovation, a means to surpass competitors and generate revenue. Results showed 85 per cent of Canadian respondents would partner first to enter new markets (six per cent above global average), and 83 per cent would partner to improve an existing product or service (eight per cent above global average), found the survey of 3,100 business executives in 25 countries.

Despite the acknowledgement of the importance of collaboration, many Canadian businesses seem unwilling to share the resulting risks and rewards. Only 11 per cent of Canadian executives surveyed said their firm would be open to sharing the revenue stream or losses that could be generated through a collaborative innovation. That's the lowest of all countries in the survey (global average is 28 per cent).

About two-thirds of Canadian business executives raised a lack of protection of confidentiality and intellectual property (68 per cent) and a lack of trust (64 per cent) as concerns, both well above the global average.

"To succeed in global markets, the survey findings suggest that Canadian businesses will need to leverage Canada's solid innovation foundation, by increasing tolerance for sharing risk, developing new business models and undertaking greater collaboration," said Elyse Allan, president and CEO of GE Canada.

While new products and services have historically been the main driver of growth, innovation takes on many forms. Business model innovation, such as process improvements and executing with greater speed, is gaining momentum as a route to success, and may offer a less risky and resource-intense path to be competitive. Three-quarters (76 per cent) of Canadian executives believe that developing new business processes will improve profitability (13 per cent above global average).

In order to innovate successfully, Canadian executives identified several key factors to success:

• attract and retain innovative people (88 per cent)

• create an environment and culture conducive to innovation (80 per cent)

• challenge generally accepted practices and ways of working (69 per cent).

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