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Thoughts on Innovation – Brian Cookson


Brian Cookson is president and managing director of RDP Associates (established 1987). RDP works with businesses across a wide array of sectors and enables them to obtain various forms of government grants. It helps both start-ups and established businesses with gaining access to financial assistance for their innovation and business expansion projects.

What is your definition of “innovation”?

Many people confuse innovation with invention. The invention is creating something new like a product, whereas Innovation is having market acceptance of that invention. In other words, if that new product doesn’t have sufficient sales or a sustainable market, it is not an innovation.

Why is it important for companies to innovate and invest in modern technologies?

We have always heard the quote “ innovate or die”. This is very true in most industries. However, at some point, all industries will be affected by innovation. Businesses, at a minimum, need to use proper judgment in undertaking innovation. This requires a qualitative and quantitative analysis. Just saying “that sounds too risky or that is going to cost too much” is not giving an idea sound consideration.

What advice can you give to Canadian businesses looking to make the most out of their investments in innovation?

For most companies, innovation is about risk and how to allocate scarce resources. For many businesses, one area of deficiency is their knowledge about government funding programs that can mitigate their financial risks. There are numerous grant programs totalling billions of dollars in government funding. Typically, grants will cover up to 50% of eligible project costs. There are funding programs for R&D/ innovation, hiring and training technical staff and exporting new products. Funding ranges from a few thousand dollars to millions. A company can take on more risk if it covers (via government grants) a substantial part of the costs of an innovation project.

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