A quick search on Google Trends shows that prior to 2009, the term “innovation ecosystem” was basically non-existent. Within the last few years, however, this term has slowly entered the lexicon, particularly among those who work directly or indirectly to support entrepreneurs and their startup companies. The increased usage of the term “innovation ecosystem” (or, more recently, “startup ecosystem”) seems to reflect a growing understanding that innovation is the ultimate team sport, and that successful commercialization doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

Within Ontario, in both policy and practice, this notion of innovation as a team sport has begun to take root. One example of this collaborative approach to commercializing innovation can be seen in the Innovation Data Partnership Ontario (IDPO).

In collaboration with 16 Regional Innovation Centre (RIC) partners, Data Catalyst has been working to develop a comprehensive, data-informed picture of the innovation ecosystem in Ontario. By tracking client companies, investments, talent pools and markets over time, sector and location, Data Catalyst, through the IDPO, is helping to generate insights and drive the Ontario innovation ecosystem, and the companies within it, forward.

Just as any startup company needs customer and market research to make informed decisions, so too do innovation centres and startup advisors. By collecting program activity and company-level data from RIC partners, and combining it with other data sets (venture capital deal flow, public funding sources), Data Catalyst is helping to provide its partners with portfolio insights and ecosystem intelligence that can lead to better resource allocation decisions.

A few highlights from the partnership

To date, the partnership has:

  • Improved the overall data quality of the network through a Data Standards Working Group that agreed to common definitions, industry groupings and survey questions
  • Conducted the most comprehensive and coordinated survey of Ontario startups with almost 1600 respondents (approximately 37% response rate)
  • Created an analytics dashboard to answer key management questions such as:
    • How is a portfolio of clients distributed across different industries?
    • How are clients distributed by their stage of development?
    • How have these distributions changed over time?
    • Which clients are receiving the most resources?

Where is the partnership heading?

Around the world, startup researchers and practitioners are trying to demystify the new venture creation process with a view to creating more successful companies. Although it’s unlikely that a simple recipe for startup success will ever be discovered, there is a trend among innovation intermediaries to build roadmaps that help startups navigate their journey. In the context of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, RICs have begun to add structure to previously ad hoc client management processes and share their insights with each other. Data Catalyst is supporting this work, with the goal of making Ontario a recognized leader in innovation and entrepreneurial management.