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Thoughts On Innovation – Craig Alexander

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Craig Alexander is the first Chief Economist at Deloitte Canada. He has over twenty years of experience in the private sector as a senior executive and leading economist in applied economics and forecasting. He performed macroeconomic research, regional and sector analysis, and fiscal market forecasting and modelling.

Craig is a passionate public speaker and holds a graduate degree in Economics from the University of Toronto.


What is your definition of “innovation”?

Innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good, service or process that creates value or efficiency. A key dimension of innovation is the commercialization of new ideas or advances.


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

Innovation is a fundamental part of competitiveness and growth. Investment in new technologies is often how companies become innovative. A new technology can allow the production of a superior product or service. It can often create new efficiencies and enhance productivity. Sometimes, there can be cost savings. Innovation and investment in new technology can frequently be used to address labour or skills shortages. Capital investments are key to economic productivity. Indeed, I monitor business investment as a key ingredient to our forecast for Canadian economic growth. As part of a partnership with Deloitte and the Business Council of Canada, we released Canada’s Competitiveness Scorecard— measuring eight critical dimensions of Canada’s economic performance on the global stage. Innovation was one of these dimensions. Sadly, Canadian businesses invest less than their U.S. counterparts, with the result that capital per worker is lower in Canada. This partly explains why Canadian productivity lags that in the U.S. and other global competitors.


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

I think a key barrier to investment is uncertainty. Over the last decade, business investment has been disappointing despite a technological revolution taking place. I think businesses need to overcome their risk aversion and the tendency to delay investment. We will always be in a risk-filled economic environment, but business leaders must accept that and still make strategic and core investments. Moreover, we need a business culture of constant innovation. In today’s globally hyper-competitive world, businesses are faced with constant disruption and that means long-term success and the ability to scale will necessitate relentless innovation.

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