What does the foghorn, Robertson screw and Ski-Doo all have in common? They are all incredibly helpful devices that have revolutionized their particular industry. They were also brought to life by the minds of Canadian inventors.
Canadians have always been on the front line of innovation, creating things that not only change the world on an economic level, but also on a social level.
“When you look at innovation and the link that innovation has with the quality of life of people of a society, there’s a direct link between innovation and quality of life,” says Dr. Gilles G. Patry, president and CEO of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.
One invention that changed the way Canadians and people worldwide interact with each other is the creation of the smartphone. The roots of the smartphone can be traced directly back to Waterloo, Ont., and the creation of the Blackberry.
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“Look at Mike Lazaridis. He invented the smartphone. There were cellphones, but there wasn’t the email data. That has changed society. That was a product to begin with but in the end, it’s been absolutely a social innovation,” says Greg Dick, director of education outreach at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Canada started as a place of innovation before it officially became its own country. The foghorn was invented in 1859 on the coast of New Brunswick by a Scotsman who immigrated to Canada.
“Canada punches way above our weight in terms of science, tech, engineering and social advances,” says Dick.
Why is it that Canada is able to make advancements in science and innovation that much larger countries aren’t able to? A big part of that has to do with the fabric of Canadian culture and the safety that comes with living in Canada.
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“I think when you look at Canada, the ingredients that are so critical to foster an innovative society, I think we can pride ourselves on the quality of our institutions and that is one of our great strengths. With everything that is happening in the world right now, Canada provides that level of security,” says Patry.
“There’s time to think and to contemplate and let your curiosity and creativity take us to new directions. It’s those factors that let Canada punch above our weight,” says Dick.
Canadians have been able to create products and innovate society in ways that improve the lives of people worldwide. One major social innovation was universal health care, which has led to Canada being called one of the best places to live in the world.
Another one of Canada’s most famed inventions was created after a tragic health incident. When Joseph-Armand Bombardier’s two-year-old son fell ill, a winter snowstorm prevented the family from reaching a hospital. After his son’s death, Bombardier went on to invent the Ski-Doo, a vehicle that would allow people to travel in snowy areas.
“At the end, it’s all about people. These ideas are great if they improve the quality of life of individuals. That’s one of the litmus tests of innovation. We say that innovation is the desire to make things better for society,” says Dr. Patry.
While innovation is often seen as products being invented, both Dr. Patry and Dick urge Canadians to think about innovation in a broader sense.
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“There’s no tailored path to innovation, but it’s essentially this idea of wanting to be curious and wanting to improve things, not just physical things but social things, programs, issues, processes, etc. It’s open to everybody. You can come at it from various walks of life.”
For Canada’s 150th birthday, the Perimeter Institute is teaming up with four other leading science organizations to bring innovation to Canadians. The goal of Innovation 150 is to inspire Canadians to become innovators in their own lives. Innovation 150 will land in Thunder Bay on Canada’s 150th birthday with exhibits, stories and events.
“What we’re trying to do by going across the country for Innovation 150 is to get people to follow their curiosity. There’s an innovator mindset that you can develop. The goal of the entire exhibit is for children to leave with more questions than when they walked in. That’s the essence of creating new innovators,” says Dick.
(Henry Gomes/Global News)
In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, the History channel has unveiled a slate of digital shorts titled Thank You, Canada, reflecting our nation’s historical successes and milestones. They’ll be rolling out from now until Canada Day (July 1).
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