Doubling Down on Innovation and Skills to Navigate Economic Headwinds

The Hon. Navdeep Bains, Vice-Chair for Global Investment Banking at CIBC Capital Markets was invited as keynote speaker for the annual 2022 DeGroote School of Business Insights Lecture at the McMaster University. The Insights Lecture is DeGroote’s premier speaking engagement for faculty and students, bringing together renowned speakers from academia and alumni in industry leadership. The keynote address, titled “Doubling Down on Innovation and Skills to Navigate Economic Headwinds” focuses on the influences of human capital, immigration and the Inflation Reduction Act to the Canadian Economy. His remarks are summarized in the below.

It was an honour to be invited to give the 2022 McMaster Insights Lecture last month. The theme of my lecture was ‘Doubling Down on Innovation and Skills to Navigate Economic Headwinds.’ As a former Minister of Industry with responsibility for skills, innovation and science, this has been my passion project. It was also the culmination of some of the themes I have written about during the course of the year: human capital, immigration and the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act.

I believe we have some of the most talented people in the world in Canada. We are a country rich in resources and ideas. As with other parts of the globe, we are facing some turbulent economic times. To navigate these challenging economic headwinds, we should be ready to do things differently. The use of automation, data, AI and cloud computing have disrupted many sectors. They have demanded a change in business models, culture and customer experience. Global spending on digital transformation is estimated to reach $6.8 trillion by 2023. This digital transformation will affect every part of our life. The way we work, how and where we learn and how we communicate. It has forced businesses to reimagine traditional approaches and to constantly innovate and evolve. The pandemic accelerated our digital transformation, but it was already happening in areas like manufacturing and commerce.

The energy transition is also well underway. The need to move to a low carbon economy is urgent and well understood. 2030 is just around the corner and if we are to meet our climate goals we need to innovate. We need to generate solutions and ideas that challenge the status quo and come up with better ways of dealing with old problems. Canada has a once in a generation opportunity to take a lead here, with our experience and expertise we can do so in areas such as hydrogen, carbon capture and critical minerals. Canadian climate technologies are leading the world in developing technologies to help us achieve our net-zero ambitions. 2021 saw record global investment in sustainable technologies and in 2022, 13 Canadian companies made the prestigious Global Cleantech 100 list.

Reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 will require rapid deployment of existing technologies as well as widespread use of technologies that have yet to be deployed. By 2050 almost half of the reductions will come from technologies that are currently in the demonstration or prototype phase. Major investment and commercialization needs to take place in the next decade to bring these technologies to market. This should be matched by a more generous tax credit system to incentivize the scaling of technologies. It was a pleasure to speak on such an important set of issues and I will continue advocating for our world class entrepreneurs and championing climate technologies.  

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