Deep Tech Canada

2023 Health and Medical Innovation Summary

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Advancing Healthcare Innovation: Insights and a Call to Action

In the rapidly evolving landscape of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, it's essential to ask: Are today's technologists and policymakers being equipped with the skills needed for our fast-changing world? This question is especially crucial in the field of deep tech, where tackling complex challenges requires a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to innovation.

Deep Tech Canada, in partnership with the Nanomedicines Innovation Network, recently held a two-day deep tech in health conference. This event brought together students, academics, and industry experts to discuss deep tech's role in healthcare and the critical training required for future advancements. The conference featured a lineup of leaders in health innovation, including Tim Murphy, Vice President of Health at Alberta Innovates, who sparked conversation with a quote from futurist Alvin Toffler: "The illiterate of the future are those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." This emphasizes the need for a shift in our thinking—moving away from traditional norms and towards innovative solutions for global challenges.

The conference's theme focused on agility and adaptability in healthcare innovation. It highlighted the need for a robust ecosystem capable of pushing beyond mere incremental developments. Stuart Kozlick, Vice President of Strategy, Development & Commercialization at NGen Canada, underlined the importance of creating an integrated network. This network should include government agencies, healthcare institutions, regulatory bodies, practitioners, and patients, all working together to transition towards more connected, digital healthcare solutions.

Canadian entrepreneur Shawn Watson, the founder of Senescence Life Sciences, shared his vision of cultivating an innovation culture based on family values and intergenerational responsibility. His mantra, 'Think Bigger and Be Louder,' showcased the success of sandbox methodologies in technology commercialization.

Industry leaders emphasized the importance of skills such as initiative, problem-solving, and a lifelong learning attitude for graduate students. Competencies like effective communication, teamwork, and a broad project perspective are increasingly valued. An innovative mindset, willing to venture beyond comfort zones and established limits, is crucial for success and thrives on mutual trust and collaboration.

A group of universities, led by the University of Toronto, proposed specialized training certificate programs. These programs are designed to prepare individuals for influential roles in the industry, integrating various disciplines to shape future global leaders.

Students highlighted a gap in readiness for future employment, stressing the need for policies and investment strategies that support company growth in Canada. This strategy involves developing interconnected pathways and a talent pipeline to attract multinational corporations and investors.

Andrew MacIsaac, CEO of Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation, noted the diverse roles within the innovation ecosystem, each essential for moving from discovery to tangible innovation. While striving for excellence is constant, the focus on relevance and impact is growing. He urged university leadership and government policymakers to consider these insights.

Call to Action

The conference concluded with a strong emphasis on the essential role of nonprofit organizations in spearheading ecosystem development. Through their efforts in highlighting early successes and mobilizing a network of committed advocates, these organizations play a crucial role in sustaining forward momentum. Their actions, ranging from facilitating collaborative platforms to driving policy advocacy and resource mobilization, are fundamental in steering progress towards scalable and impactful solutions. These solutions not only benefit the Canadian economy but also set a precedent for innovation-driven growth. This strategic approach is required to foster a vibrant and progressive innovation environment across the country.

The key actions identified are:

  1. Fostering Multidisciplinary Collaboration: Encourage active collaboration across various sectors to create a cohesive and innovative healthcare ecosystem.
  2. Emphasizing Lifelong Learning and Skill Development: Focus on equipping professionals with essential skills in problem-solving, communication, and teamwork, while nurturing an innovative mindset ready to transcend traditional boundaries.
  3. Building a Strong Innovation Culture: Support environments conducive to experimentation and intergenerational responsibility, leveraging 'Think Bigger, Be Louder' approaches to innovation and sandbox methodologies for technology commercialization.
  4. Integrating Diverse Disciplines in Education: Advocate for specialized training and certificate programs by academic institutions, preparing individuals for significant industry roles and shaping future global leaders.
  5. Addressing Employment Readiness and Talent Development: Highlight the need for policies and investment strategies that bolster company growth in Canada, thus creating pathways and a talent pipeline attractive to global corporations and investors.
  6. Encouraging Inclusivity in Innovation Roles: Acknowledge the diverse roles within the innovation ecosystem, stressing the importance of relevance and impact alongside excellence, and urging university leadership and government policymakers to integrate these insights into their strategies.

For more information or to get involved with the initiatives and activities of Deep Tech Canada, please contact us here.

For a recap of the event, you can visit the archived website here.

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