Navigating an Innovation + Entrepreneurship Ecosystem with a Compass

Andrew Do
Annalise Huynh

By Andrew Do and Annalise Huynh
June 13, 2016

Consider four different people:

  • A researcher conducting basic research on quantum computing
  • A college professor teaching her students
  • An entrepreneur working out of an incubator
  • A public servant working in economic development policy

What do they have in common? If you asked them individually, they might not be able to tell you how they‘re linked together, but they each contribute to supporting innovation + entrepreneurship.

Taking on an ecosystem approach, we can begin to see how these seemingly unrelated actors are part of a larger whole. That means not just looking at the individual actors, but how they interact with one another, and how these interactions contribute to the overall behaviours of the ecosystem.

This is apparent in the Government of Canada’s commitment to push forward an Innovation Agenda. In the most recent 2016 Federal Budget, there is small budget commitment along the lines of “Strengthening Innovation Networks and Clusters.” It identifies the need to close “information gaps and coordination challenges” that are preventing “these linkages [between actors] from being developed to their full potential, impacting the strength of innovation ecosystems.”

The question is: how we can begin to see the whole of Canada’s innovation + entrepreneurship ecosystem? We started with Nesta’s UK Innovation Policy Toolkit. Given the Brookfield Institute’s mission to make Canada the best place to be an innovator or entrepreneur, it made sense that we should understand the system that we’re trying to influence.

Not a map, but a compass.

We talked to a lot of people; policymakers and researchers working in the ecosystem at different levels, and entrepreneurs who were curious to understand the system. In putting this resource together, we want to give some attention to the prevalent questions around the Canadian ecosystem. At this stage, it’s not yet a map or a comprehensive list. Rather, it’s a way to organize and navigate the existing ecosystem, much like a compass helps you navigate a map.

What’s next?

Our framework isn’t by any means comprehensive. It will need to be refined as we learn more and compile feedback. But this isn’t not the kind of work that we can or should do on our own. We need you to tell us what you think we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, and raise flags wherever you find space that isn’t covered in our taxonomy.

This is the way we see Canada’s innovation + entrepreneurship ecosystem. For you as the user: does the ecosystem look different from where you’re working? Does this compass answer any of your questions? Does it raise any?

Read A Compass to Canada’s Innovation + Entrepreneurship Ecosystem and let us know at

For media enquiries, please contact Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

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