Problems to Possibilities

From the Editor / Lisa Van Dusen

Here at Policy, we mark time in columns, daily online postings and bi-monthly print issues of the magazine. So, one small statement about the challenges of a global pandemic that has unleashed both tragedy and transformation is that this is the second annual Policy-Rideau Hall Foundation Innovation Issue since we all hunkered down and masked up. 

We couldn’t ask for better partners with whom to work through a crisis. For this latest joint innovation issue, Policy and the RHF—founded by 28th Governor General David Johnston to shine a light on Canadian trailblazers and encourage aspiring innovators to join their ranks—chose Problems to Possibilities as our theme. COVID-19 is still defining our days, but we’re also beginning to see the possibilities of post-pandemic life.

Thank you, as always, to the entire RHF team, including President and CEO Teresa Marques, Director of Innovation and Skills Amy Mifflin-Sills and Director of External Relations and Public Engagement Allison MacLachlan for their professionalism and collegiality. 

We begin this innovation issue with Policy editor and publisher L. Ian MacDonald’s Q & A with 28th Governor General Johnston, who brings his insight and unfailing moral compass to the major questions facing the country after a year of COVID. 

Teresa Marques follows that introduction with a piece informed by all the timely intelligence of her RHF network of innovators, Beyond a Level Playing Field: Closing the Digital Equality Gap.

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who took over what has become a crucial economic file in January, lays out the massive response from Canadian companies who re-tooled to help with the pandemic in his wide-ranging Q & A. 

Every year, the Governor General’s Innovation Awards celebrate unique individuals and teams who have found solutions to the world’s increasingly complex problems with collaboration, interdisciplinarity and inclusivity, using technology to bridge divides and empower others. Again this year, we have profiles of all the GGIA winners, from the doctor using 3D printing to revolutionize chemotherapy to the fibre optics specialist who found a way to “hear” the cracks in infrastructure. The RHF’s involvement with the Arctic Inspiration Prize—or the Nobel of the North—always delivers some of our favourite stories for these issues. This year, Jimmy Oleekatalik writes about his AIP-winning innovation, the Niqihaqut food sovereignty project, in Creating a New Arctic Food Economy, for Generations to Come.

Agricultural innovation is one of the great science, tech and adaptation stories of the fourth industrial revolution. In Not Your Grandfather’s Farm, Canada-India Business Council CEO Victor T. Thomas catches us up with the revolution in agtech. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the breakthrough at the University of Toronto that brought us insulin. Historica Canada’s Anthony Wilson-Smith and Bronwyn Graves have filed Innovation Through the Lens of History, about the Banting, Best, Macleod and Collip Heritage Minute and the spirit that has sustained us through a pandemic. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s universities have been a front line of both institutional adaptation and innovation, combining social distancing and online classes to continue operating and generating life-saving vaccine research and public health guidance. In University Innovation: A Transformative Force for Canada’s Post-Pandemic Economy, Université Laval’s Sophie D’Amours, Chair of the Board of Directors of Universities Canada, looks ahead to how universities will help shape the innovation economy. 

In Indigenomics: Harnessing the Strength of an Economic Powerhouse, Indigenomics Institute founder and CEO Carol Anne Hilton describes how Indigenomics provides a path to Indigenous economic empowerment. In The Innovation Superclusters: Working for Canada, the five Supercluster CEOs provide reports of the innovation hubs’ successes more than two years into their mandates. And, in Creating an Inclusive Innovation Economy, Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director of Ryerson’s DMZ tech incubator, describes how the DMZ’s Black Innovation Programs are removing artificial barriers for Black entrepreneurs.

Enjoy the issue.  

Lisa Van Dusen is associate editor and deputy publisher of Policy Magazine. She was Washington columnist for the Ottawa Citizen and Sun Media, international writer for Peter Jennings at ABC News, and an editor at AP National in New York and UPI in Washington.