Canada Must Make Profound Changes To Succeed: Lynch

In a quickly changing world marked by increased globalization, a shift in the balance of economic power towards emerging economies, and a shrinking workforce, Canadian governments, businesses and universities will have to make profound changes, said Kevin Lynch, a former high-ranking civil servant and currently vice-chairman of BMO Financial Group. “The status quo is not an option anymore,” said Dr. Lynch in a speech at a conference of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario held Nov. 1 in Toronto. Dr. Lynch called on universities to collaborate with businesses in order to boost Canada’s flagging productivity, to concentrate resources into key research areas, and to work together to build a Canadian brand for higher education in overseas markets. (He made similar observations delivering the 2012 Killam Lecture at the University of Ottawa Nov. 5.) Echoing the recent Jenkins report, Dr. Lynch told the Toronto audience that Canadian universities and businesses exist as two solitudes. Canada, he said, has strong research-intensive institutions and a strong business sector. “What we don’t have is interaction between the two,” he said. “If you put the two together, you get magic and that magic is innovation.” Dr. Lynch delivered similar messages in delivering the prestigious Killam Lecture held a few days later at the University of Ottawa. In Ottawa, Dr. Lynch made three final suggestions: • Canada needs to establish a productivity and innovation council that would benchmark competitors and global best practices and share this information with business. • Canada should consider establishing about five world-leading applied-research institutes that would be aligned with targeted sectors and Canada’s strengths, where Canada has a chance of becoming world-class – it would involve taking risks, he said. The institutes would represent a partnership between industry, government and universities. • Canada must look outward for new partners. Students need to be equipped to think globally, and universities need to consider more second-language requirements, opportunities for study abroad and more innovative curriculum. Canada does have individuals who innovate, but “no one would rank Canada as an innovation nation or a nation of innovators,” concluded Dr. Lynch. “Being average isn’t good enough. We need to be more ambitious and that requires transformation.”