Thank you. I'll read my prepared remarks.
Thank you sincerely to the committee for inviting me to share my views today. The subject on the table, technology transfer, is an area where I have deep interest, many years of experience, and a strong desire to see improve.
I've been an entrepreneur and a technology industry participant for more than 25 years. I began my career at IBM in Toronto before moving to the United States in 1997. Since that time I've been a founder of three venture capital-backed technology companies as well as an investor in 38 other companies. In total, the companies I've been a part of have gone on to create more than $2.5 billion in enterprise value.
I moved back to Canada in 2013 with my family to settle here in Ottawa, and I'm currently the founder and managing director Mistral Venture Partners. Mistral is a Canada-based venture capital firm focused on making investments in early-stage Canadian companies, including a number that were developed, at least initially, at Canadian universities.
We currently manage a little over $50 million on behalf of more than 60 investors, and we've made 16 investments to date. One of the main reasons I moved back to Canada from California—beyond the weather, of course—was a personal desire to participate in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in my home country. After working for many years in the United States, it became increasingly clear to me that, for Canada to remain competitive globally, it would be critical that we embrace entrepreneurship and innovation.
Foundational technology developed by university-led research is one of the strongest assets we have to compete in this age of global innovation. Careful consideration of how best to spend public investment dollars should be a top priority for Canada to ensure we remain competitive and growing on the global stage.
In my view, the challenge we have—or better said, the opportunity—is that between $6 billion to $10 billion is spent annually for research initiatives at Canadian universities, while only about $60 million in IP licensing income is received. By contrast, the total licensing income related to technology transfer from universities in the United States in 2015 was $2.5 billion. That's nearly five times as much as Canada on a per capita basis.
The University of Utah was recently ranked the top technology transfer university in the United States by the Milken Institute based on a number of quantitative measures. The most interesting result in my opinion is that they have been able to average $136,000 in licensing revenue for every $1 million of investment over the past four years. I estimate Canada's equivalent metric to be between $8,000 and $10,000 per $1 million of investment spent.
In an effort to propose specific and concrete ideas on how we can improve our system here in Canada, I suggest the following list as a starting point:
One, legislate that a specific percentage of research dollars given to universities be directed solely to technology transfer activities. As a starting point, I would suggest between 0.5% and 1%.
Two, I would share licensing income with the professors and students in such proportion as to attract the brightest minds from a global pool.
Three, I would streamline technology transfer as much as possible across the country to minimize the friction, i.e., reduce the learning curve for market participants to find and buy technology. Specifically, I would create a standard equity template or royalty model and avoid one-off agreements that only seek to optimize returns that are perceived to be of higher value.
Four, I would weave tech transfer success metrics into the tenure decision process, the goal being to attract and retain world-class talent and to focus research on areas of commercial promise.
Five, and maybe this should be number one, measure and publish the results of university technology transfer across common metrics, normalized by the amount of research dollars spent. These metrics might include things like patents issued, IP licences contracted, or the number of start-up companies created. Over time, this market-driven force will more efficiently allocate research spending dollars. The competitiveness of Canadian universities can be measured by their output, patents, licences, and start-ups created relative to the input of research expenditures.
Public and private university research provides fertile soil from which foundational technology germinates. Efficiently nurturing these seeds of innovation is the key to fostering technology-based economic development. Other critical ingredients are necessary as well, including the creation of the highly trained human capital that industry desires, as well as the structures and methods by which innovation can move easily from the lab to the factory.
There are a myriad of ancillary and multiplier effects to foundational research, including the creation of middle- and high-skill jobs through commercialization and technology transfer. This is why your focus on this topic will provide real leverage for the Canadian economy.
Thank you very much.
First of all, I want to thank the committee for holding these hearings to address the important issue of intellectual property and tech transfer. As a tech entrepreneur, I can tell you this is long overdue. I appreciate being given the opportunity to speak here today.
In addition to being the executive director of North of 41, I'm also the president and CEO of a software company called Dynamite Network, based in Toronto. We build software for companies and focus on artificial intelligence. As a company, we've partnered with academic organizations and institutions over the years, including the University of Western Ontario, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Toronto. We've also partnered with colleges such as Niagara College and Sheridan.
We have received funding, both federally and provincially, so I feel that I have a unique perspective to bring to this committee because I have first-hand knowledge as to the positives and negatives in the area of IP and tech transfer.
As I said, in addition to running Dynamite, I'm also the executive director of North of 41, which is a tech-based organization with over 12,000 members. The organization's membership base is comprised of tech entrepreneurs like me, whose companies are in the hypergrowth phase of their business life cycle.
As part of the organization's mandate, North of 41 hosts programming for its members through various events, everything from tech-focused round tables to—and I see some familiar faces—hosting Tech Day here on Parliament Hill, which we did last May and will be doing again this October.
As part of that Tech Day initiative, North of 41 recently launched an online platform called the “Canadian innovation town hall” to encourage communication between all levels of government, bureaucrats, and tech entrepreneurs. The purpose of the online portal is to allow political stakeholders unfiltered access to tech entrepreneurs in an ad hoc industry advisory capacity.
This summer, North of 41 will also be releasing its research paper, “Innovation to Prosperity”, which discusses and provides recommendations in order to improve and support Canada's innovation policy.
There are five key areas that this committee has chosen to undertake. I'm here today to focus specifically on item number three, which was identifying incentives for researchers to register intellectual property, and item number four, incentives and practices for the private sector to identify and utilize post-secondary intellectual property.
I've been following the hearings closely, and I wanted to say I agree with one of the presenters who said a couple of weeks ago that we should “look at this as knowledge transfer as opposed to tech transfer”, because that's in essence what it is.
To give some current context in terms of the tech industry, in order for Canada to have a prosperous tech sector and to compete on the global stage as a country, we must have a robust and effective intellectual property program. It must allow for industry and academia to both achieve their objectives and at the same time increase the overall knowledge base of the tech sector. It's imperative for all stakeholders to be rowing the boat, as they say, in the same direction.
The size of Canada's tech sector is relatively small when compared to other jurisdictions around the world. Having said that, as a country, Canada punches above its weight class as it relates to the tech sector. To put it into context, I remind people that the entire population of Canada is equivalent to the total population of the State of California, yet despite our relatively small size, we've developed expertise in specific areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, fin tech, and biotech, just to name a few.
Being world leaders in these areas allows Canadian tech entrepreneurs to compete on the world stage. No longer is it Canadian tech entrepreneurs versus Canadian tech entrepreneurs. It's Canadian tech entrepreneurs versus the world. In this country, intellectual property can be considered the digital resource of the new Canadian economy. Just as Canada's natural resources are viewed as a national asset, so too should tech sector innovation.
Our North of 41 group has identified two areas we need to address. The first is cost as it relates to preparing patent applications. The second is a need to have a central registry for post-secondary R and D for industry entrepreneurs to access.
I'm a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School. I'm considered a tech geek with a law degree, so I'm a unique individual.
I know I'm going to anger some of my former classmates when I say that the costs associated with filing for intellectual property protection have never been higher. This limits the filing of any IP protection to those with significant financial means, and it presents a problem because typically the entrepreneurs who are developing groundbreaking new technology do not have large sums of money to spend on IP protection.
I've filed a couple of patents myself, so I've gone through the entire process, and it is not an easy process. I think it would be made easier with some changes. Currently, when it comes to filing patents, most entrepreneurs are faced with the choice of spending financial resources on IP protection or taking those same resources to further their tech development. The general consensus among tech entrepreneurs in our North of 41 group is that technology changes so quickly that, by the time a patent is filed, reviewed, and issued, the technology in most cases is obsolete. Further, if a patent is in dispute, the cost and time to litigate far exceeds any monetary settlement. In order to encourage the filing of IP protection and therefore increasing the book value of innovation by Canadian tech entrepreneurs, the system of filing patents and adjudicating disputes must be streamlined.
In addition to cost, there's a need for industry to understand areas of R and D that the university and colleges are doing. I'm sure within the government setting there is a register, but it's not something that's easily accessible by industry.
Knowledge transfer is also a concept that must be embraced between industry and academia. Traditionally, academia has a strong track record of developing innovative technology, and conversely, a weak track record of commercializing it. One of industry's strengths, on the other hand, is commercializing and getting the technology to market. Having a free flow of knowledge transfer is critical for Canada's innovation economy to prosper. A patent is virtually worthless unless there is a path to commercialization. Job growth only occurs if technology is commercialized. Once that technology is commercialized, only then are companies able to scale it out, which in turn leads to job growth in the tech sector. There needs to be better communication between those who are creating technology and those individuals who are looking at commercializing opportunities.
In terms of the government's role, I believe the government's role is to bring the parties to the table, not to try to do the work of academia or industry. Instead, government must create an environment that will allow innovation to flourish. Government's role is not to pick the winners or losers; neither is it the role of academia or industry. In fact, this is the role of the marketplace. From a global perspective, Canada's tech industry has a very good reputation and has all the necessary attributes to compete on the global stage, but we must act now in order for it to continue to grow.
Those are my opening remarks. I look forward to answering any questions that you may have.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. I will also read from some prepared remarks.
On behalf of 96 Canadian universities, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the committee's consideration of issues related to intellectual property and technology transfer in post-secondary education. We have submitted a brief to the committee in both official languages.
Universities stimulate knowledge mobilization by training talented graduates, publishing open access articles, creating and testing data stemming from public research, creating high-tech startups, and through new technologies and research solutions that benefit large and small businesses.
Our universities, here in Canada, conduct 41% of the country's research and development and are key partners in industrial innovation. They conduct over $1 billion in research for the private sector annually.
There is no single path for innovation and no magic bullet to achieve innovation. Each region and sector will require a unique mix of collaborations between universities, government, private and non-profit sectors. At the centre of this innovation ecosystem is federal support that facilitates dynamic partnerships with flexible IP arrangements. Since innovation takes many forms, Canada needs a policy ecosystem that is flexible and diverse.
Universities Canada welcomed the $950 million over seven years in budget 2017 for innovation superclusters and the requirement for industry partnership with post-secondary institutions.
Our country has long been able to bring together those two sectors through initiatives that benefit Canadians, such as the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace, or CRIAQ, a Quebec non-profit organization that includes 21 academic institutions and 57 companies. It provides an exceptional intellectual property agreement whereby industrial partners receive an exclusive royalty-free license. The organization estimates that companies see a $1 return on every 25¢ invested.
Other initiatives drive regional economies. The Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy is an industrial-scale research and development lab at the University of Windsor. It transfers electrified vehicle technology to local industry partners at globally competitive levels.
Our universities' willingness to share is a unique asset to help drive innovation. Open innovation provides the private sector with quick access to the results of federal investments in discovery science and can encourage its commercialization. The University of Toronto's structural genomics consortium, which includes nine major pharmaceutical companies and collaborators worldwide, freely discloses the results of its work to the international health care community, leading to the creation of many Canadian companies.
Canadian private sector investment in R and D continues to decline compared to that of other countries in the OECD. From 2006 to 2014, our global ranking in business expenditures in R and D dropped from 18th to 25th. Open science could be part of the solution to combat this trend and encourage Canada's private sector to pull more IP from universities.
Today, I'd like to make four recommendations to the committee that would help grow Canada's innovative capacity and strengthen our IP landscape.
First, Canada’s research ecosystem is fertile ground for tomorrow’s leading market innovations. Government action in budget 2018 on the recommendations of the April 2017 fundamental science review panel will be a critical next step in unlocking Canada's innovative potential for commercialization and knowledge mobilization. This panel of eminent Canadians, which includes some of our top business leaders, makes it clear that significant reinvestment in basic research is critical and foundational to driving innovation in this country.
Our second recommendation is to maintain space for universities to have flexible IP policies. Canadian universities use a range of IP policies, from creator-owned to institution-owned, with most adopting some hybrid of the two. There is no one best way to do innovation, and both types of policies can drive patents and commercialization. For example, the creator-owned policy at the University of Waterloo has helped make the region one of the most dynamic areas in Canada for start-ups and high-tech growth, while UBC's institution-owned policy recently allowed it to license a promising new treatment for prostate cancer to the pharmaceutical giant Roche.
Flexibility allows universities to modify their strategies, depending on regional, sectoral, and partners' needs. Fully harnessing the potential of university R and D to meet the diversity of business needs means our institutions must maintain policies that are open to risk and experimentation.
Our third recommendation concerns strategic funding. While the innovation activity produced by our universities continues to increase, its growth slowed considerably after the loss of the intellectual property mobilization program in 2009. This was a tri-council initiative designed to encourage the sharing of expertise between university tech transfer offices. It led to a number of enhancements in the Canadian IP ecosystem. Its termination resulted in a loss of technology transfer staff across Canada and a loss of substantial national expertise on university best practices related to IP.
Like other innovation nations in the OECD, Canada would benefit from a stand-alone fund dedicated to catalyzing knowledge mobilization from universities for economic and social benefit.
Finally, we recommend that the government catalyze the creation of a national IP concierge service. This national hub could coordinate tools and initiatives that promote knowledge mobilization from all sectors, including universities. Services could include a database of pro bono legal services with IP expertise and a suite of template agreements demonstrating best practices in university business negotiation, such as the Lambert Toolkit in the United Kingdom, or the Australian IP Toolkit for Collaboration.
In closing, I want the committee to know that we are interested in working with you to establish recommendations in order to leverage academic knowledge and foster innovation and economic growth. Universities, in partnership with the government, private and non-profit sectors, as well as international collaborators, have an important role to play in building a better Canada for all Canadians.
I look forward to discussing this with you soon.
Thank you very much.
Thanks to all the witnesses for being here today.
It's certainly interesting to hear the discussions. For the last couple of weeks, we've had numerous people talk about different ways in which they feel the dollars and investments we have in universities, colleges, and polytechnics...how well that matches with the needs of the industry, and how closely that can come together with commercialization.
There has been discussion about how the superclusters are going to work. That hasn't really gained a great deal of traction with business. I think there are still some concerns about where that's going to go. Are we going to be looking at picking winners and losers? I believe at least two of you have mentioned how significant it is to make sure that we are focused in the right areas.
Mr. Cubitt, in your five points, you mentioned standardizing the way in which we look at technology transfer and streamlining it across the country. I think that's probably one of the key things that have been mentioned here. Sometimes even in the same city, we have three or four different ways in which universities are setting up their technology requirements and their licensing regime.
I wonder if you could give us an idea, from the business side, of what that streamlining would look like to an organization such as your own. Perhaps, Mr. Musson, you could add to that as well.
We certainly think the idea of having some standardized templates for negotiations would be quite helpful. Some models in the U.K. and Australia would be helpful for us to look at.
As part of the Business/Higher Education Roundtable, which includes 27 of our universities, colleges, CEOs, and the Business Council of Canada, some work is being done now on some standard research collaboration templates for that very reason. As my colleague said, and as I've noted, having a one-size IP policy, given regional and sectoral differences, is not necessarily the answer to drive commercialization, but having standard templates in best practice that can be learned from, we think would be very useful.
In terms of other initiatives that we think are important to help support the collaborative efforts between our institution and the private sector that leads to tech transfer, as I noted earlier we are concerned with the fact that right now we don't have a funding mechanism that supports knowledge mobilization out of universities. We think the clusters are a good step. They will support some important initiatives, including, we think, not just geographic clusters, but those that are networked in as well, in terms of specific expertise. Some support along the lines of what the U.K. has, a higher education innovation fund, which allows supports for business, universities, and other partners to work together, is one thing we think Canada should consider.
As well, perhaps look at whether there could be a new form of what existed, which was the intellectual property mobilization program through the tri-councils, which, as colleagues have said, helped strengthen and streamline the expertise within tech transfer offices to share best practices and to have expertise within our universities that is dedicated to getting the intellectual property and the technology out of the institutions. The loss of that program really did result in a decline of the capacity within our institutions to act on tech transfer objectives with their companies. We can share the statistics with the committee if you're interested.
I think we're seeing some novel IP frameworks within open science initiatives. The Montreal Neurological Institute launched an open science initiative last year. We think this is a new area where Canada is leading, and can result in some new ways to promote commercialization, and make the knowledge coming out of these research initiatives widely available.
Thank you to our witnesses for being here today. I'll start with Ms. Johnston and go across the panel.
The common theme we've heard today is the standardization or some type of a base element. There doesn't seem to be a lot of time for those in the entrepreneurial sector to research all the universities, find those partners, know where they are, or even to know about the regional clusters. It's almost as though a portal is missing, and a lot of time and energy are wasted on that.
Your model is to continue to have some flexibility for the decision-making for those regions. I want to dig down further on that.
Would it be appropriate to set even a base percentage or a base expectation, and then with that, measurement models about what gets to market and what doesn't? The value of measurement is more important in many respects too, because just going to market is not always the end that it should be, depending upon what's being done.
Starting with you, Ms. Johnston, and then going across the panel, do you think there is enough of a common ground for us to find that so at least Canadians can look at that? An innovator in British Columbia could look at Ontario and find a cluster and see that it is actually doing some innovative stuff related to the farming industry, for example, and see that he or she has something that might actually cross-pollinate into that.
You touched on a number of things.
At the end of the day, it's a large ecosystem. Capturing the knowledge from the university graduates as they leave is really important, and obviously there's a brain drain problem. My view is that industry will always pick the best minds. If it's American companies picking our best minds, we need to have better companies that are able to capture them.
I'll go back to something else you said, which is really about consolidating all the IP created by universities. This is a three-pronged problem. The first one is to create awareness. You have to be aware that the IP exists and you have to be able to distill and evaluate it among all the rest, whether that's a single repository database that you search and say you need something on AI or whether it's a team of people who go around to industry and meet with every company in the country once a year to say, “Look, here's what's relevant to your business.” I'm not sure of the answer, but awareness is a big one.
Second, you need to reduce the friction for getting the IP out in the first place. We've talked about that at length.
The third is measuring the results of that, whether it's the Ph.D.s who stay in the country versus leave or whether it's IP licences granted, and so on, and then use that as a feedback mechanism, all the way back to the beginning.
My broader point is that historically, universities have been the bastion of knowledge. They've been the keepers of technology, innovation, and knowledge. That's no longer the case. Universities used to live in an ivory tower where they'd say they needed tenured professors who can research and create IP without fear of any retribution or any undue influence from industry. That's an antiquated notion. If our universities are going to compete with universities globally, they need to be better aligned and more closely affiliated with industry players, because industry is going faster than universities in a lot of cases. My thrust here is really to try to create connections between industry and university and break down the barriers, whatever they might be.
As part of the science review and the innovation agenda review we welcomed the opportunity for clusters to be created, but with some broad principles underpinning that. One is that there would be an open, competitive process, that it wouldn't be picking winners, but through an open, competitive process the best would be chosen, and that institutions such as universities, colleges, and polytechnics would need to be partners because they bring a lot to the clusters that are being developed.
From what I understand there are a number being developed that are not only geographically clustered, but are drawing in expertise from across the country because geographically we need to be able to have a network approach to excellence when it comes to particular areas like agrifood and advanced manufacturing.
Our members have been quite interested in being partners in the superclusters initiative and are really getting behind specific proposals.
What I would add, though, is that it's a tool in the innovation ecosystem. I go back to my earlier comments that we also need to be investing at the front end of the pipeline. There's the Naylor report that came out in April, which talks about the need to reinvest in discovery research to fuel what is now our strong expertise in artificial intelligence. Thirty years ago Geoff Hinton at U of T was toiling away, through NSERC grants, and that was part of what led to what we have now in terms of Canada's global expertise in AI.
For us, the superclusters are an important element, but not without being in a broader context of well-resourced discovery research and some of the other programs we've talked about today.
Thanks to all of you for being here. What a great discussion we're having this morning. I always wish we had more time.
In the interests of time, I want to zero in on the intellectual property management program that was discontinued in 2009 because the previous government, I think rightly, looked at that as something that was going into a lot of overhead without results, and possibly the measurables weren't in place as effectively as they could have been.
If we look at that and ask what types of measurables.... Previously, the tech transfer officers were trying to get research dollars into the universities. That was their goal, so they only dealt with businesses with lots of money to give to the universities versus small businesses or start-ups, or businesses with risk attached to them.
Mr. Cubitt, looking at the measurables, the number of patents released or the number of licensing dollars that businesses create as measurables, how could we pivot the IPM program to be more effective if we looked at reintroducing money into that stream?
The good news is there's never been a better time than in today's society, where you have Internet connectivity and video conferencing, and wish to have the rural areas....
I'm originally from southwestern Ontario, and that's another area that—if you're outside of Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Ottawa, and the key sectors—you have to be able to plug in. What happens in the case of Sault Ste. Marie is that you guys are known for forestry. You have some mining. The beauty is that technology is weaving its way through all these industries today.
One problem entrepreneurs have is looking for beta customers to try out technology. If you have willing participants in these areas, now again you start forming informal clusters, and that will allow innovation to take place.
The other great thing is it is very costly in Toronto's real estate market to be renting facilities for businesses, office space, and what have you. I have to tell you, if you're able to develop technology outside of the GTA or outside of Silicon Valley, and locate those companies in Sault Ste. Marie, in Chatham or wherever, that's a big incentive as well to be able to still plug in.
I'll take a stab at it from this direction.
Our investment strategy is based on a statistic. You can tell I'm a pretty numerical guy, but it turns out that fewer than 10% of Canadian start-ups get capital from outside of Canada. Of all the exits, 33% of the exits and 40% of the profit go to those 10%. It's a bit of a winner's bias there, but it's pretty intuitive that if you run out of money, you run out of time.
Our premise as a firm is to find really interesting Canadian technology and bring U.S. investors into our companies. The criticism we heard early on—to some extent, anyway—was, “Yeah, but now you're going to be taking our great companies, shipping them to California, and draining our talent and our knowledge”, and so on and so forth.
I have a different view, which is that the more technology we create and the better brand we create for creating technology, the more people will be attracted to us. Yes, we're going to have to shed some initially. It's almost like a good faith donation, a loss leader.
Specific to your question, I think EDC understands that. They understand that it's a global marketplace, it's a global knowledge repository, and the world is globally competitive. Jeff mentioned that the Internet enables all businesses everywhere to compete. If we don't have a global view and recognize and leverage global assets, we're going to be isolated and suffering.
I have a couple of comments.
Starting with what you were saying, Jeff, it is probably more fair to say there are a lot of institutions that are very globally connected that are working with the trade commissioner service. We are very plugged into that group and have been having similar conversations with those who are setting up the invest in Canada hub around foreign direct investment, wanting to ensure that as they make their plans for what their officers are going to be doing on the ground, they understand the university assets as they promote foreign direct investment in Canada.
To your point, obviously, those who are good at what they're doing, in terms of tech transfer offices, should be getting out and doing the push factor, both in Canada and globally. To me, that is an obvious part of the job description that should be happening. Particularly in this day and age, you can't just be sitting in your office waiting for phone calls.
There is one interesting model, which we talked about in our paper, we are seeing in the United States. Dalhousie University has brought us the ICORE initiative, which is an opportunity to do some work with faculty and grad students to help train them, and those who support them, on how best to work with industry and how best to commercialize. That is something Dalhousie is starting. I would really love to see that being picked up as a broader initiative in Canada, because it is about equipping people with the right skills. What faculty does best is delve down and drill down deeply, as we've talked about, but many of them want to make sure that what they're developing is out in the marketplace. Sometimes, it is helping build the skills, both through the tech transfer office and the ICORE initiative, where they're also paired with grad students who are trained in this expertise, who maybe have more time than the faculty member does.
I want to spend one second on global connections, because I think that is a really important point. From our perspective, universities are under-leveraged assets in terms of our global relations. When we look at the CETA with the European Union, we have incredibly deep research partnerships with European institutions. Right now, they are looking to us in a way that has never been higher, with Brexit. I would say the same for China. We are being highly sought after for our research expertise and can help be part of the team Canada approach to promoting Canadian expertise abroad. I wanted to make sure that point was made.
Thank you very much. I just have a couple of comments. They do tie into some of the things that have been mentioned.
As I have indicated in this committee before, I had the opportunity to be with the science minister in Germany. They told us that, as far as the Canadian taxpayer is concerned, they are giving the same amount of money per GDP and per population for research and development. So, when we hear suggestions that Canadian taxpayers are not doing their part, we should discuss it.
A 2014 Government of Canada report said:
||Canada ranks first among G7 nations for investments in R&D in universities and colleges relative to the size of our economy.
||Canada's researchers produce more scientific publications per capita than most industrialized countries. In fact, with less than 0.5 percent of the world's population, Canada produces more than 4 percent of the world's research papers and nearly 5 percent of the world's most cited papers.
||Canada's post-secondary institutions have leading-edge research programs and infrastructure that facilitate and stimulate collaborations and networks.
||Universitas 21, an international network of universities, continues year after year to recognize Canada's higher education system as one of the best in the world.
We have a lot to be proud of, but it does get a little frustrating when we say we are not putting taxpayer dollars in. What we are getting to, and that is why we are having this discussion, is how we then tie business in, and how business is able to get into part of that. That is where I think we are in the discussion.
I just wanted to make that point again when we are talking about leveraging trade commissions. That's what we did when we were talking about how to make sure things were going to happen. That is just a comment I wanted to make.
I'll leave the rest of the time for Mr. Nuttall to continue with his questions.
I'm going to pivot a little. You came back from the United States. I look at these superclusters that are taking place. I also look at the fact that 80% of the Canadian population lives within a few hours of the U.S. border. In developing those personal relationships, it's one of our biggest markets, obviously. Despite the fact that we're growing in other areas, it's the predominant one. There are 40,000 vehicles per day—10,000 trucks and 30,000 cars—that go along two miles of the border, three kilometres on the Canadian side and two miles on the American side.
The opportunity is there, but how can we best access it? I don't see this competition. I know they have different laws. We have British common law as our basis, but how do we take advantage? I'm from Windsor. I know the University of Windsor has a common law society program for Canadian and American law.
Why don't we start building on some of those assets to drive some Canadian innovation into their markets as opposed to shipping the stuff out and then getting it back? What can we do better to drive it out there? There was mention of Sault Ste. Marie. We have a whole bunch of medium-sized cities, and south of the border.... I don't think we're utilizing that. I just put that out there. How can we use that as the doorstep of the United States instead of...? The assumption is that we get washed over.
I know in the community I come from, there are no prouder Canadians, but we're also integrated with the United States, and we actually use that to a competitive advantage, sending 10,000 nurses and doctors per day over to the United States because they're better educated, better trained, and they can out-compete.
I'll start with Ms. Johnston and go across the board here.
I'll pull on a thread that Jeff mentioned, and that is, after spending 20 years in the U.S. and the rest of my career in Canada, one thing I noticed is that Canadians love to compete with Canadians, but they're afraid of that imaginary border just south of us, and I find that ironic.
It happens a lot where I'll meet an entrepreneur in Canada and he'll say, “Oh, you're from Silicon Valley. The streets are paved with gold. It's amazing.” Well, it's not, and I can tell you that it's no different there than it is here. I hear the common refrain that it's easy to get funding. Well, it isn't, it really isn't. The laws of supply and demand make that the case.
Having said that, I think the border is artificial, and we do need to leverage relationships, proximity, culture, and language, etc. I think we need to get over ourselves. We need to be less conservative and a little bit more sort of intellectually honest with the facts.
As a firm, we do that all day long. For every dollar we put out, I think the average right now is $8 or $9 U.S. that come into our companies, and we're absolutely taking advantage of that fact.