Swedish delegation explores Canada’s innovation model
By Cindy Macdonald
Jan. 3, 2017 - A delegation of Swedish executives and scientists visited Canada in September, seeking more information on the successful Canadian innovation model for the forest products industry.
By Cindy Macdonald
The visitors were all involved with a project called Innovation in the Forest Sector, under the guidance of the Swedish Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA).
David McDonald, the Canadian facilitator for the visit, said the trip is a credit to the accomplishments of the Canadian industry over the past decade. The delegates came seeking information about the strategies the Canadian industry has employed, and the alignment of different organizations within Canada to tackle challenges in the forest sector.
The delegation consisted of several executives from companies related to the forest sector. These were Ingrid Bodin, executive vice-president, Preem AB; Olof Persson, former CEO and president at AB Volvo (now chairman of the Innovation project); and Peter Wågström, president and CEO of the NCC Group, one of the largest construction and property development groups in Northern Europe.
Representing the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences were Elin Vinger Elliott, Staffan Eriksson and Hampus Lindh. Carina Håkansson, director general of the Swedish Forest Industries Federation, was also among the visitors, as was Mats Johnson, project leader for the IVA’s forest industry project. Lennart Rådström, former research director at the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden, also joined the group.
The delegation attended meetings in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa with various representatives of the Canadian industry, government and academia.
One speaker was Jim Farrell, a former assistant deputy minister with the federal government, who explained the consolidation around Canada’s innovation strategy was industry-led and member-driven. Governments were key partners, and a collaborative research model with proprietary benefits was chosen.
McDonald described how white papers and meetings with stakeholders led to the 2007 creation of FPInnovations. Another piece of the strategy was to align universities, which culminated in the formation of FIBRE, with federal funding assistance. “Then came funding programs to help industry reduce the risk of investing in new technology. The industry on its own would never have been able to [achieve transformation],” he said.