Leveraging Canadian Diversity As a Competitive Advantage


During one of our projects we discovered a technology hidden in the far reaches of Russia that was commercialized for just this purpose. The technology not only can separate oil and sand, it can also be used as a remediation technology to clean tank sludge, separate the oil from the sludge as well as return the sand back to its natural state. Its worth noting that there are millions of tons of tank sludge lying around in Canada and much of it is sent to landfills. What is even more interesting is that this technology has a Russian/Canadian connection.

On the same project we were contacted via a Trinidadian Canadian that was interested in getting this technology to sites in Trinidad with the purpose of remediation as well as cleaner extraction. This small project presented a few new and significant business opportunities for Canada, an opportunity to deploy a technology that has strategic implications, as well as significant environmental improvement in oil sand performance. It also presented an opportunity for Canada to export a technology to another country and thus expanding its brand as an innovator in the energy industry. Both these opportunities would be realized via Canada’s unique cultural diversity.

In the past, Canada’s immigration policy was seen as a benevolent display of world citizenship that gained us the reputation of being a compassionate country that reached out its hands to those that were less fortunate than we were. We were known for taking in refugees from war torn countries and assisting those from marginalized global populations, however this is only a small part of the story and in truth we are now faced with tremendous opportunity as a result of the story’s larger part.

In 2008, 21,859 immigrants came to Canada as refugees. The number of refugees in 2012 was 23,056. This figure has been pretty consistent in the time period between 2008 and 2012. However, when we look at “economic immigrants” we see that in 2008 about 150,000 economic immigrants now called Canada home and in 2012 that number rose to just over 160,000. These numbers are significant when considering in 2008, 247,247 overall immigrants came to Canada and in 2012 that number was 257,515. The majority of those new Canadians find themselves in Toronto and Montreal, with 77,466 and 46,901, respectively.

It seems that many of the new Canadians are what would be considered “economic immigrants” and it would be a fair assumption that a great many of them have business savvy, dual cultural know-how and connections in their former countries of origin. It is also a fair assumption that many of the new Canadians are from emerging economies that represent opportunities for economic growth in Canada.

It is our contention that this is a significant competitive advantage for Canada as it boasts of being one of the most sought after places to live in the world and study, because of its stable banking system, highly recognized and ranked education systems, low crime rated cities, beautiful landscapes, and friendly citizens.

In the coming years we will need to develop more systems and programs that allow us to seek out, extract value and make better meaningful business connections globally, leveraging the expertise of the international community Finding new Canadians with the skill sets to hire, partner with and help navigate this new uncharted water will clearly provide Canadian companies with tremendous amounts of insight that would be invaluable for trade and profits. APRIL 2013 • The Canadian Business Journal 127 of people that are attracted to our shores. As businesses start to look further than the U.S. to other markets, having an understanding of the cultural and business landscapes in other countries has become increasingly important. Making this move as a small to medium sized entity can be extremely risky if one is not aware of the local terrain.

Finding new Canadians with the skill sets to hire, partner with and help navigate this new uncharted water will clearly provide Canadian companies with tremendous amounts of insight that would be invaluable for trade and profits. Conveying this message to Canada as a whole will be an important next step as we forge forward
into the 21st century.

Open innovation is about companies leveraging external R&D expertise to drive innovation and growth. It seems apparent that open innovation can also be about countries leveraging social as well as technological innovation to drive growth and global connections. Canada is extremely well positioned to take advantage of this global reality and emerge as a world powerhouse.

By Dwayne Matthews

Dwayne Matthews is the Managing Director of Clean 15, an open innovation leader in Canada.