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Emerging Technologies and Strategies

Nov 05, 2018
Darren Gresch
Research Associate,
Innovation Policy

It is easy to get swept away in all the hype surrounding emerging technologies. Every day brings new developments demonstrating various technological improvements and proof of concepts. These are inevitably discussed and extrapolated upon by proponents of the technologies (and the media), leading to a blurred understanding of what is possible today and what may be possible sometime in the future. This vague understanding of a technology’s development trajectory can result in a misalignment of expectations and a lack of adoption and implementation. However, this complex reality should not dissuade individuals from thinking about what might one day be possible.

Public profile—even hype—is crucial for getting more people to think about emerging technologies and the solutions they might unlock. Organizations may see an unexpected application of a technology to their business. While that specific application might not yet exist, with some resources directed toward the problem, it could be a potentially straightforward process of re-purposing the technology to suit the business need.

Many organizations have an idea of how technologies may impact their business, but capitalizing on those opportunities requires a better understanding of what is hype and what is reality. On April 25, 2018, our Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy team brought together our Technology and Innovation Councils/Centres for our STIP 2018: Emerging Technologies and Strategies event, where we uncovered several actionable insights that individuals and organizations can use to improve this understanding.

Far-Reaching Impact

The impacts of emerging technologies will reach into nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Further, applications in one industry may have substantial impacts in several others. Individuals can prepare for change by asking themselves how these technologies might enhance or threaten their current way of life. Organizations can prepare by asking how they can train their employees to ensure they are ready to take full advantage of productivity and efficiency gains enabled by these technologies.

The Future Is Already Here

From closed-loop, self-driving vehicles to virtual assistants that can call and schedule appointments, organizations are already implementing new business solutions with a variety of emerging technologies. Firms and governments should review their business models and policies to acknowledge and accommodate the changes these technologies are bringing.

Canada Risks Missing Out

For decades, Canada has performed poorly on several innovation indicators compared with its peer countries. The table below is from The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Innovation Report Card and shows Canada’s and its provinces’ performances compared with several peer countries.



The government is in the process of streamlining its suite of innovation programs to address this poor performance. However, businesses still need to improve their managing and marketing skills and capacity, invest more in in research and development (R&D) and innovation-related activities, and increase investments in various information and communications technologies (ICT) to remain competitive and take full advantage of the benefits emerging technologies can offer. As shown in the charts below, Canada is the worst performer among peer countries in business R&D and a poor performer in ICT investment.






If Canada and its firms fail to improve their relative standing compared to international peers, their competitive advantage will continue to erode. The adoption and adaptation of emerging technologies will play a crucial role in this process. Both organizations and individuals can play a part by improving their understanding of how these technologies might be applied both today and in the not-so-distant future.

Continuing the Conversation

While the STIP 2018: Emerging Technologies and Strategies event primarily explored the technological side of these changes, our upcoming Public Sector Transformation 2018: Delivering Digital conference looks at the human component. Specifically, the conference will focus on the culture, strategy, change management, and leadership necessary to successfully navigate increasingly complex technological environments.


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