Encouraging Innovation in Ontario’s Talent Ecosystem May 26, 2011 RICCentre By Saadia Muzaffar Part 3 of the highlights from OCE Discovery 2011 Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Centres of Excellence’s Discovery, which brings together key players from industry, academia, government, the investment community as well as entrepreneurs and students to pursue collaboration opportunities. One of the panel discussions I attended touched the urgent need of a collective communal vision that will shape the innovation pipeline in Ontario for years to come. The discussion addressed the need to encourage innovation as part of our extracurricular and academic programs at elementary school level instead of being introduced in a very formal context at universities. The experts in the panel urged to view innovation as a thought process that seeks creative solutions in all aspects of our lives, starting at a very young age, and not something that is restricted to the realm of post-secondary institutions and research-based careers. Here are two exciting organizations that foster innovation at a grassroots level in Ontario: Let’s Talk Science – an award-winning, national, charitable organization delivering science learning programs and services that turn children and youth on to science and then keep them engaged. Youth Science Ontario’s mission is to empower regional organizations across Ontario to increase youth interest in inquiry-based science and innovation. The programs could reside under the umbrella of the local schools and community centres and libraries. The panel convincingly illustrated the need for each of us to be a steward for change in our respective community programs, to ensure that we have resources available for youth to explore science much the same way as they have availability of sports or arts programs. The key message is to work together to build a talent pipeline that supports Ontario’s innovation ecosystem with the help of Ontario-based organizations that help run programs designed to engage, educate and inspire. – Saadia Muzaffar, from the Innovation Seminar at OCE Discovery 2011. Saadia Muzaffar joins the RIC team as the Operations Coordinator responsible for building and execution of activities that fulfill RICC’s mandate. She brings several years of relationship management, corporate communications and operations experience mainly from the financial services industry.