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N.S. Innovation Gets Low Grade

N.S. innovation gets low gradeNova Scotia, and the rest of Atlantic Canada, lag behind other provinces and countries when it comes to innovation, says a Conference Board of Canada report.

The province scored a D overall on the board’s innovation report card, released Thursday. That earned Nova Scotia a 20th-place ranking out of 26 provinces and countries included in the study.

The province scored at the bottom of the heap in one of 11 indicators, research and development activity by business. Nova Scotia’s other lowest scores were in number of researchers and patent activity.

However, there were some positive findings for the province.

Nova Scotia led the pack, with an A plus, in public research and development. The category measures R&D activity by government and higher-education sectors relative to gross domestic product.

The province also scored highly in number of scientific articles being produced.

An Ottawa conference board official said the report shows that the province’s higher-education sector remains key to spurring innovation.

“Where Nova Scotia has some difficulty, where it seems to be falling down a bit, is in the execution piece,” Daniel Munro, principal research associate, said in an interview. “Businesses in the province don’t appear to be as good at picking up those ideas and transforming them into sellable products and services, and implementing the processes that comes out of that.”

Nova Scotia also scored well in entrepreneurial ambition, Munro said. But a low ranking in venture capital investment indicates a lack of funding for early-stage companies or growing enterprises, Munro said.

Stephen Duff, president and CEO of Innovacorp, said the findings aren’t a surprise given that the Ivany report identified a need to attract more private-sector investment in the province.

“Government can’t fix it. The private sector has to lead it,” said the head of the province’s early-stage venture capital agency, referring to the R&D imbalance. “Government needs to create the winning conditions to allow businesses to increase their productivity and innovation.”

Canada, as a whole, received a C grade, finishing 12th overall and ninth among the countries ranked on innovation.

The report card included 11 provinces and territories, and 15 countries.

Sweden, Denmark and Finland were the top three finishers with A grades, followed by the United States.

Canada’s overall showing was an improvement over previous report cards, although the board said there are indicators in which the country continues to perform poorly.

This is the first time the annual report has ranked individual provinces.

Ontario was the top-ranked province, earning a B for a fifth-place showing overall. Quebec was next in eighth spot.

Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were at the bottom of the heap, with D minus grades. They were just below the worst-ranked country, Ireland.

Peter Halpin, executive director of the Association of Atlantic Universities, said the report card’s findings need further study but are a cause for concern.

“I would certainly envision the report and its findings and conclusions something that would be the subject of future discussion by higher-education leaders, governments and private-sector partners.”