Industry executives, government, and high-growth entrepreneurs gathered in Toronto last week at the Startup Canada Innovation Forum to share and spread a vision for the role of industry in supporting the growth of Canada’s startup and small business community.

Startup Canada CEO Victoria Lennox established the call to action, stating that peer and government collaboration is key in the success and support of the next generation of Canadian high-growth companies — which are responsible for 87 per cent of all new jobs in Canada.

“As Canada looks forward to the next 150 years of entrepreneurship and innovation, it will be the businesses that start and scale today that will determine the future of Canada’s long-term global competitiveness,” Lennox said.

Small businesses account for 97.9 per cent of all firms in Canada, ultimately playing a critical role in the creation of new jobs, according to a 2016 report released by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The report also found that private sector small businesses employed 70.5 per cent of Canadians in 2015 in contrast to large businesses who only employed 9.7 per cent.

Speakers including Bruce Croxon, managing partner of Round 13 Capital; Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of the MaRS Discovery District; Bardish Chagger, Ontario minister of small business and tourism; Anthony Lacavera, chair of Globalive Holdings; and Jeff Cates, CEO of Intuit Canada shared their unique insights on how industry-government-entrepreneur collaboration will help better establish Canada as an innovation nation.

“The federal government, just like the provincial and municipal governments, has a role,” said Chagger. “Our budget committed to investing $950 million to support a small number of superclusters, so rather than spreading it like peanut butter across the nation we are making strategic investments so that Canada can lead the world.”

Croxon noted that relationships with fellow entrepreneurs and private industry are crucial to the growth of Canada’s innovation development.

“I still believe so much in teamwork. Nobody has all the answers, you have to work well with others,” he said. “Working together, understanding where you want to go as a company, surrounding yourself with the people that are going to be conducive to success in this new environment is important… If you do that right, the right group of people working on the right thing can achieve anything.”

The next generation of innovators need a more robust and unified effort from the government, industry and support organizations in order to develop Canada into an innovation nation, Lennox added.

“It’s about working together. None of us has to do it all for Canada, it’s about working together to make that one piece work really well,” she said. “If we are all focused on the same vision and mission, with the same values at our core, we will succeed.”

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