Minister-led Roundtable: Innovative Transportation - Summary of Discussion

May 25, 2016, 9:30AM to 11:30AM | Saint-Hubert, QC

The meeting was conducted under Chatham House Rule: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

Notes on Roundtable Discussion:

The focus of the Innovative Transportation discussion was to hear views from participants on how to better harness innovative and transformative technologies to enhance productivity, reduce environmental impacts, and increase the competitiveness, safety and security of Canada’s transportation system.

Participants brought forward the following comments:

  1. What are the most important innovation opportunities in the transportation system? What goals should be pursued and, given limited resources, how should we prioritize actions?
    • Innovation can be defined in many different ways. For example, some may think of innovation in terms of intellectual property (IP) rights, while others may define it as the point where IP is commercialized. In industry, innovation involves being able to solve an important problem for consumers.  
    • Defining the problem is important to understanding the vision for transportation in Canada as there are many ways to address issues and develop solutions. Having a clear vision will help industry see what the government’s priorities are so that investments can be aligned in support of the vision. Government needs to clearly articulate its policy perspectives on how innovation can be best leveraged to achieve higher objectives, such as those associated with economic growth or social well-being.
    • Strong partnerships between industry and government are key to developing the policy and regulatory frameworks that will enable innovation and the adoption of new technologies. Commercializing technology requires an environment where regulations and policy enable companies to innovate.
    • Transportation in Canada is complex as there are many “structural” challenges that exist in the system. Having a truly integrated transportation system and solving problems that arise within that system involves understanding key objectives, identifying short- and long-term goals, and incenting different jurisdictions in Canada to work together.
    • The world has shifted to more “mobility on demand.” Users of the transportation system expect “seamless mobility” between modes. Canada’s Intelligent Transportation Systems deployment framework was instrumental in improving the mobility of people and goods. Existing frameworks such as these should be leveraged to include new paradigm shifts.  
    • Creating foundational projects and hubs with post-secondary institutions in Canada as well as establishing better links between post-secondary institutions, start-ups, and industry can help generate excitement for innovation and technology in the country.
    • Adopting new technology, such as electric vehicles, requires that the public have a good understanding of the benefits and uses of these technologies to help build confidence.
  2. What are the key economic opportunities for innovation to increase the competitiveness of Canada’s transportation system, and for critical industrial sectors (e.g., automotive, information and communications technology, clean technology, green infrastructure)? What are the barriers to the adoption of these and other technologies in the transportation sector?
    • Government needs to ensure that regulations enable, not suppress, innovation. In this way, regulations should be seen as an economic development policy. UAVs largely benefitted from regulating flexibility to pilot test specific technologies.
    • For innovation to be effective and useful, governments and industry need to have an effective partnership.
    • Effective collaborative platforms are needed to allow Canada to effectively compete in global markets. The Government should have consistent conversations with technology companies, especially for technology that is advancing quickly relative to other businesses that are not moving as fast, such as more brick and mortar companies (e.g., logistics companies). Government needs to have the right resources and experts in place, which remain consistent over time.
    • Competitive platforms should be based on principles that allow the market to dictate who is successful and who is not. Industry also requires certainty with regards to policy or competitive elements within industries, and certainty concerning regulatory change.
    • To innovate more effectively, the Silicon Valley needs to be recreated in Canada to help keep Canada’s bright minds here. Kitchener-Waterloo and Vancouver are hubs of innovation in Canada, as such industry and government should work together to broaden existing hubs, and enable others.
  3. What is the government’s and industry’s role in promoting innovation? What policies and other mechanisms are needed to support the emergence of innovative transportation technologies? Do we have the right mechanisms for collaboration?
    • Government should signal to the market and industry what the priorities are for R&D and education.
    • When looking to promote innovation and educate, there is an opportunity to look at “pilot zones” and/or an “XPRIZE” to foster areas of interest. Offering a prize to encourage stakeholder engagement is important.
    • It was noted that Canada does not do well when it comes to commercializing innovation due to the lack of financing available to tech companies. Government could explore the role it has in attracting public and private investment to market the technology.
    • Investments in marketing would be a positive step in helping to commercialize Canadian products. Government has a role to play to provide support and foster an environment that will allow Canadian companies to showcase their technology through competitions and/or showcases.
    • On data, industry and government should work together to collectively source and build data.
    • There is a great deal of data available. The issue with data is providing the proper incentives for industry to share information. Investment is required to create the data platforms, but one also needs to forge various partnerships between public and private entities and show value as regards collecting their data in a platform.
    • From a space perspective, the world of transportation will not be limited to earth technology. Space is commercializing and new space businesses are being created, thus decreasing the costs to access space. The commercialization of space will create or is creating a paradigm shift where we will need to think further out as regards to transportation implications.  
  4. How can we ensure that Canada’s transportation sector does not risk falling behind in the adoption of new technology, relative to our major trade partners and competitors?

    Participants were asked to identify risks that could negatively impact Canada’s ability to innovate. Identified risks are:

    • Slow government;
    • Prescriptive regulations;
    • A lack of a clear vision;
    • Not promoting the importance of innovation;
    • Not focusing limited resources in the right areas of innovation (i.e., spreading resources over too many areas);
    • At a federal level, not having the ability to roll out decisions in the national interest due to jurisdictional barriers (i.e., a lack of federal leadership);
    • Having a fear of risk and not pushing existing boundaries;
    • Not providing a flexible regulatory framework could stymie innovators and enable conflicts between new and existing regulations; and,
    • Doing things in isolation (collaboration and listening is important).
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