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It’s time for Canada to become synonymous with digital innovation. Our industries have to step up and compensate for the long-term lack of technology investment and conservatism that leaves us in an economy where, for example, only 3% of retail happens online, and many of our most innovative minds head for Silicon Valley.

A big part of the problem lies in how Canadian executives at established businesses see the world. Many still see technology as cost instead of value—a cost to be minimized. They don’t put trust in bespoke corporate innovation teams and they don’t have that “try often, fail often, succeed sometimes”-mentality that really drives innovation.

This way of thinking has left many businesses today in a state of disarray, with poorly maintained legacy systems and outdated processes. At a time when software and IT actually present the best opportunities to “spend money to make money,” failing to invest in them will be what kills businesses.

Canadian firms must innovate and leverage the digital opportunity

So Canadian firms have to really grab hold of the digital opportunity, block out that fear of failure and start fundamentally changing how they operate. The ones that don’t will become the first casualties of the digital transformation. In fact, over the next 10 years, 40% of the S&P 500 will cease to exist if they do not keep up with the demands of the digital economy.

Realizing this, the new Canadian government has been saying the right things about how it plans to reverse the trend by increasing business and education research spending. And in terms of acting on it, Trudeau recently pledged $900 million to the startup and innovation sectors. Add that to the venture capital work already being done in Canada, alongside our burgeoning startup culture, and there are promising signs.

The government can capitalize on that promise by introducing science and technology innovation policies that create the conditions for growth and talent, helping businesses and innovators surpass their global competitors and make us a force again in the world economy.

Corporate innovation is linked to growth and competitiveness

Growth and competitiveness are directly linked to the ability to turn the digital opportunity into innovation and real efficiency improvement. How Canada as a whole invests in and adopts digital products this year and beyond, especially across sectors like manufacturing and natural resources, will determine its future relevance in the global marketplace.

SAP is bearing a huge responsibility in helping Canada get there through constant education and encouragement of businesses and our society as a whole. In fact, we are using the country’s speed of digital innovation as the very measure of our own success.

In that spirit, I look forward to speaking in more detail about the digital opportunity facing Canada at MaRS Verge on March 1.


Leagh Turner

Leagh Turner is the Chief Operating Officer/Managing Director of SAP Canada, responsible for driving the growth of SAP’s industry-leading cloud, mobile, and database and technology solutions. See more…