Many elements are needed to turn research into reality. As creative as new inventions can be, they alone are not enough to make an impact on society.
The complete path to a benefit for society is what drives research by Professor Dan Breznitz, Munk Chair of Innovation Studies at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
“We need to remember very clearly what is invention and what is innovation,” explains Breznitz. “Invention is the coming up with ideas, even maybe showing that they sort of can work in a lab. Innovation is putting them actually in reality.”
Often, startup companies are involved in this translation of invention to innovation, but anyone can get involved.
“So it’s all across all activities, and that’s actually what makes it important and actually impact society and people,” adds Breznitz.
Innovation isn’t just important for change, it’s also important for growth. This is essential for Canada to maintain a knowledge-based economy.
“If you want any kind of economic growth, long-term economic growth, especially in Canada which is a rich industrial society, it’s only through innovation,” says Breznitz.
“If we don’t have that we’ll have stagnant growth, stagnant welfare.”
As a recent example, Breznitz cites innovation as an essential element in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. With the invention of vaccines alone, it would have been impossible to mobilize everything that was needed to get doses into arms.
“It’s not enough to come up with new molecular, and finally using mRNA, we need to figure out how to produce it into the billions of units,” says Breznitz.
“Then we need to figure out how to distribute it to the people who actually need it, we now know every about six to nine months in the tunes of billions. It’s really important that we constantly innovate through all those stages, through everything from the glass vials, to the distribution if you want to have that growth to offer. Until we do all of that it’s lovely, but we won’t get rid of COVID.”