Promoting Canadian Digital Innovation

Contributor: Jim Ghadbane, CTO, CANARIE Inc.

Global economy? You bet… we’ve heard it so much, we’re almost numb to hearing it. Yet, losing sight of that reality puts countries in jeopardy of losing their competitive edge.  One doesn’t have to look too far to see that where Canada once led the world in communications products and services, we have started to lag considerably.

There are plenty of statistics to support the view that we are lagging in bringing good ideas to market on the world stage. The country needs a turnaround strategy! So, at CANARIE, we reached out to  stakeholders to develop a key component of that strategy.

First, we looked at what was happening elsewhere.  Many countries and regions were developing “innovation testbeds” to enable collaborative and exploratory research and pre-commercial testing. Could something like this be adapted to Canada and Canadian development?

When we asked stakeholders and potential users what they would need, and they were pretty clear:

  • “cloud-based” computing where shared resources are provided on demand
  • on-demand provisioning
  • instant scalability
  • wireless and virtual private network (VPN) access

They also told us that this kind of advanced digital infrastructure could help to shorten the product development process and allow them to deploy their human and financial resources more effectively.

We discovered that there is a strong appetite for this kind of advanced R & D environment in Canada. This environment is not only feasible by leveraging the CANARIE investment, but aligned perfectly with CANARIE’s mandate.

As a result, just before Christmas, CANARIE launched DAIR, the Digital Accelerator for Innovation and Research program. What is it? It’s an R & D environment for small- and medium-sized enterprises for advanced research, product development and testing.

For companies that need network and computing capabilities that do not exist in a commercial environment today, like 4G wireless, DAIR is a critical enabler of innovation. For researchers needing an environment to build large scale proof-of-concept systems for next generation networks and computer platforms, DAIR offers an environment to experiment, to innovate, and to lead.

We hope to call for potential users of DAIR later this spring.

The big question now is the old Field of Dreams conundrum – if we build it, will they come?

Since Canada’s never had anything like this, product developers may not know where – or when – to start. Will they leap at our offer? Will they let someone else test the testbed?

We sure hope they’ll jump on board, as it fills a real gap in Canada’s ICT landscape. What do you think?

Related Links

To learn more about DAIR, check out

You may also be interested in the Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) in the U.S or Future Internet Research and Experimentation (FIRE) and Pan-European Laboratory Infrastructure Implementation (PII) in the European Union.

4 Responses to Promoting Canadian Digital Innovation

  1. Kent Percival says:

    Will they come? It likely depends a lot on where the innovators are.
    The Kitchener-Waterloo area has a lot of innovators and entrepreneurs supported by an organization called Communitech. The Guelph area now has the Guelph Innovation Centre and a growing group of innovators intested in the resources needed to commercialize their ideas. The interest goes way beyond ICT to clean energy, clen-tech, and bio-tech. Some of the latter are not yet familiar with could-based resources.
    My interest is in how to connect the end of the pipe at the University to the growing innovation community – something necessary to provide the path for them to come.

  2. Lee Doerksen says:

    If they come… will the be turned away?

    I still believe that necessity, and not policy, is the mother of invention. We might like very much to have innovative small projects in the target areas that fit what we have created. But the ones that might really catch fire are those who answer a call, fill a need, solve a problem based on some story, some experience, where they simply decided to do the right thing, the right way, using the internet to solve some problem.

    Those golden nuggets of ideas and dedicated teams might come forward… but they may be diamond shapes where our holes are round, and so we might lose them. I worry about losing diamonds in this way….

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    I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

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