The idea of self-driving cars and pocket-sized computers would have been considered unbelievable 20 years ago, but thanks to ingenuity and creativity we have seen incredible advancements. By supporting these kinds of ideas we will accelerate advancements in tech, medicine, the humanities and more.
During Universities Canada’s Accelerate event, experts in innovation and education gathered virtually to discuss how, at this pivotal moment in time, we can invest in people and ideas to create a future that is more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous.
Digital and the pandemic
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people and organizations around the world found creative ways to adjust to new realities. We embraced digital technologies and found ways to buy essentials, access health care, work and even get an education, all online. Researchers around the world worked collaboratively to develop vaccines that would save lives and protect against the virus. Without these rapid innovations, the past two years would have looked radically different.
As a major hub of experts and with strong ties to their communities, universities played a central role in supporting these necessary adaptations to the way we live.
“Universities were very nimble in offering their expertise, working with communities and helping them respond to the pandemic.” – Sophie D’Amours, rector of Université Laval
Ensuring the future is inclusive
Despite the promising innovations we’ve seen borne out of the pandemic, the move to digital has also presented new challenges. Many of those living in remote and rural communities—including numerous Indigenous communities—have limited internet access and have faced increased difficulty accessing services during the pandemic. Some digital technologies have also yet to be adapted for people with disabilities, resulting in them being left out.
Maayan Ziv, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of AccessNow, underscored the importance of ensuring future growth is inclusive of everyone.
“If we’re going to move forward in these times and accelerate, why not do that in the most diverse and inclusive way possible? Because that’s truly one of Canada’s strengths.” – Maayan Ziv
Inclusive innovation also means balancing the need to advance swiftly with the need to do things right.
“I agree we need to accelerate, but I also think we need to move at what we often call the speed of trust. There’s a real fine balance with how fast we go and how we move to ensure we’re building collaborative partnerships in a trusted way, and that we’re protecting the sovereignty of Indigenous people and Indigenous businesses.” – Tabatha Bull, President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
A time to reset and think differently
As we look towards a post-pandemic world, this is an opportune moment for us to reset and rebuild as a society. There is opportunity for Canada to revitalize its economy and make investments that will shape our future for the better.
To get there, panellists agreed, we need to support people, provide the right education and embrace those bold enough to put forward new ideas and approaches.
“To think about the future… we need the talent, we need to teach people and we need to give them the tools they need to go further.” – Sophie D’Amours, rector of Université Laval
“We have to get out of our shells and not be afraid… to challenge ourselves to think differently.” – Frantz Saintellemy, President and CEO of LeddarTech
We can’t do it alone
Panellists also agreed on the importance of collaboration. This includes with those from different sectors, areas of expertise and with different life experiences.
“You can’t accelerate in a vacuum. We need each other. We need to partner to find a path forward, and that’s how we’re going to get the best acceleration.” – John Baker, Founder of D2L
Tagged: Research and innovation
About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.
Assistant Director, Communications