Improving Canada’s lacklustre performance in innovation has been a persistent challenge. Experts continue to blame our inability to turn ideas into tangible products and services on a complex set of factors such as low business expenditures on research and development and shortage of venture capital funds.

As attempts to boost venture capital and research funding are not generating expected improvements, it is time to go back to basics. We must challenge our core assumptions about what innovation means and how it happens.

For an invention to create value or be implemented in the real world, you need to get that invention accepted in the marketplace and in use by consumers. And the only way to do that is to market and sell the invention so it becomes an innovation.

Our success as an “Innovation Nation” will depend not only on our ability to come up with novel ideas or inventions but also on our ability to market and sell those ideas. So, how does Canada do in terms of spending on marketing and sales (M&S), particularly when compared to our neighbour to the south?

There is a striking difference in the spending behaviour of Canadian and American firms and their treatment of M&S. While mid-sized US software companies spend, on average, 34% of their revenue on M&S, comparable Canadian firms only allocate 20% of their budgets to those expenditures.

Although marketing and sales are clearly important in getting a technology accepted in the market, the discussion on science and innovation in Canada has paid little to no attention to this part of the innovation formula.

You can get a full copy of the report here.