Data-Driven Enterprise Empowerment – Helping firms help themselves to innovate

by Catherine Beaudry

This series of video blogs details how by providing firms with their own detailed dashboard and benchmarking reports, combined with greater coordination of the Business Innovation and Growth Support (BIGS), they gain the means by which to increase their innovation performance. In addition, Data-Driven Enterprise Empowerment is also one of the best way to ensure data stewardship, ethics and protection because firms decide what to do with their own data, with whom to share and for what purpose. 

We need an organisation in Canada that combines the dual role of research and diagnostic, generates knowledge and action, and as such is a natural convenor of the Canadian innovation ecosystem.  

Following the Government’s announcement of the creation of a new Canadian Investment and Innovation Agency, let me suggest a hands on approach to help firms help themselves to innovate. 

In this four-part series of short video blogs or vlogs, I will focus on how to build on what Canada does well to empower firms with their own dashboards and benchmarking reports. Because after all, it is the firms that decide whether and how to innovate. 

Part 1 – Empowering firms with their own dashboards and benchmarking reports

Firms are constantly solicited by government, researchers like me, and other organisations to provide data and fill questionnaires about their innovation activities and performances but rarely receive feedback.  

What if there was a one stop shop that allowed them to provide their data, and in return, they obtained a detailed dashboard and benchmarking report? 

Knowing how they compare to others would be a powerful incentive to contribute to data collection, but also to further improve their innovation performance. Call it peer pressure if you will. 

I prefer to call this the first step of “Data-Driven Enterprise Empowerment” (D2-E2).  

To achieve this, we propose to add a dashboard/benchmarking mandate to what Statistics Canada does extremely well, collect high quality data. Whether administrative or questionnaire-based, all data collected by the organisation are representative of the population of firms in the country. What better data with which to compare the firms that would voluntarily answer specific surveys? 

For the firms, this benchmarking report would give them an appraisal of their “innovation and growth fitness level”, in the same way that individuals on their first visit to the gym get an assessment of their level of fitness. 

Part 2 – Planning coordinated Business Innovation and Growth Support (BIGS)

Our approach suggests that the various BIGS program agencies collaborate with Statistics Canada and with one another to design and coordinate data collection. This would ensure that the necessary data for informed diagnostic is collected. An added advantage is that the data collection burden would be reduced for the firms, that would have to provide the same information only once. 

This should by no means be a one-size fits all data collection and informed diagnostic. Depending on the goals and the initial assessment of the firm (from mandatory administrative and survey data for instance), specific voluntary surveys would be recommended to the firm. This is what we call incentive-based data collection.  

To continue with the gym analogy, different tests are warranted depending on the level of fitness of individuals and their goals (from weight training to running a marathon for instance).  

In our approach, Statistics Canada would continue to provide validated and representative data to the government and to the various agencies that request such descriptive statistics to inform their impact analysis. If the incentive-based data collection works well, a greater quantity of information would be collected. This would allow a more fine-grained analysis without compromising the quality of results. 

Part 3 – Delivering coordinated Business Innovation and Growth Support (BIGS)

After receiving its dashboard and benchmarking report from Statistics Canada, the firm gets in contact with, let’s say, the Canadian investment and innovation agency (CIIA) to obtain an informed diagnostic and development plan to improve innovation outcomes and growth, depending on its objectives for the future (short-, medium-, and long-term future).

How is this diagnostic built? From two main elements. First, teams of academics and researchers from the BIGS program agencies analyse data from Statistics Canada to build knowledge and intelligence regarding the impact of these programs. Second, experts from the different BIGS program agencies team up around the firm to propose a coordinated and targeted development plan that include specific programs, collaboration with different innovation intermediaries, and so on. In other words, continue to do what they do best.  

In essence, the expert team guides the firm towards the right programs for its improvement. The interaction between research, knowledge, diagnostic and action is at the core of what my students and I call “Precision BIGS”.

Without replacing or duplicating the existing BIGS program agencies, Precision BIGS builds on the strength of these agencies to deliver targeted and coordinated investment and support. In other words, this mission does not disrupt the innovation ecosystem, but strengthen it by fostering greater collaboration between agencies, Statistics Canada and Canadian firms. 

To continue with the gym analogy, what is proposed to the firm is the equivalent a “fitness plan” and the means to improve, innovate and grow. 

Part 4 – From Data-Driven Enterprise Empowerment to evidence-based governance of innovation ecosystems

If we put together all the elements mentioned in the last three video blogs, we get the following picture. The firm is incentivised to provide data to Statistics Canada which in turn produces a detailed dashboard and benchmarking report that is delivered to the firm only.  

If the firm wishes, it then contacts the Precision BIGS diagnostic team that analyses the dashboard and benchmarking report. The resulting firm’s innovation and growth fitness diagnostic then guides the action (or fitness) plan that is proposed to the firm. 

This action plan would most probably involve BIGS program agencies who have extensive experience in delivering such support programs. The firm is therefore empowered by its own data, and saves precious time instead of providing yet again the same data to different BIGS program agencies. This is what I call “Data-Driven Enterprise Empowerment”. 

BIGS program agencies and the future CIIA are part of the innovation ecosystem surrounding the firm. Many more organisations contribute to help the firm innovate, regulate the innovation process and its results, grow, and export. We need an organisation in Canada that combines the dual role of research and diagnostic, generates knowledge and action, and as such is a natural convenor of the Canadian innovation ecosystem. Could this be the future Canadian Investment and Innovation Agency (CIIA)? 

This content has been updated on 2022-07-05 at 20 h 38 min.