Friday, October 15, 2010

Immigration aids innovation: report

Immigrants punch above their weight when it comes to increasing the rate of innovation in Canada, the Conference Board of Canada said in a report released Friday.
The ambition that leads them to move to a new country tends to predispose immigrants to the kind of risk-taking that leads to innovation, Michelle Downie, the report's author, told CBC News.
A study suggests better integrating immigrants will help Canada 
overcome its poor record on innovation.A study suggests better integrating immigrants will help Canada overcome its poor record on innovation. (CBC) "They tend to be very driven and they want to exceed their own expectations, so they're always pursuing more and trying to work harder."
An earlier report by the Conference Board, an Ottawa-based non-profit research organization, suggested Canada lags behind other advanced economies in innovation, ranking it 14th out of 17 in its capacity to develop new approaches in research and development.
The study, which reviewed existing research from various sources but also included interviews with executives, found that immigrants were associated with increased innovation in Canada.
The board said the interview sample was not large enough to be representative of all Canadian business, but found a number of measures that suggest employers benefit from hiring and integrating immigrants.
'Diversity of perspective is very important to innovation.'—Michelle Downie, report author
Sometimes, the fact that their views diverge from mainstream corporate culture is what makes their advice more valuable.
"That diversity of perspective is very important to innovation," said Downie.
"If you have people with the same experiences looking at the same problem, they may not see it in a different way. Sometimes bringing somebody in with a new perspective, who's had a different life experience, has had different training, they can see a problem a little differently and they might come up with a new solution."
The study also found immigrants pull above their weight in contributing to advanced research.
Although immigrants represent 20 per cent of the population, at least 35 per cent of university research chairs are foreign born.
It also suggested immigration resulted in increased trade with immigrants' countries of origin.
The Conference Board's model suggested a one-percentage-point increase in the number of immigrants could increase imports by 0.21 per cent and raise exports to countries of origin by 0.11 per cent.
Downie's research also suggested foreign direct investment into Canada was greater from countries that are well represented in Canada through immigration.

Obstacles limit contribution

But it also determined that immigrants face obstacles that limit their ability to contribute as innovators, including inadequate recognition of their experience and qualifications, and the failure of employers to use their knowledge of foreign languages in tapping into international markets.
Ottawa introduced measures in 2009 to speed up the recognition of foreign credentials and has expanded the role of overseas offices to better prepare immigrants before they enter the labour force here.
"It is hopefully going to make a difference for the regulated professions [such as accounting or engineering]," said Downie.
Downie found about half the executives interviewed were taking steps to better use their immigrant employees.
"There are a number of employers who are taking steps to ask their employees, particularly their immigrant employees, about the knowledge they have of diverse markets or how they can use their language abilities to help them in a new markets," she said.


Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/10/15/immigration-innovation-report.html#ixzz12U24nJvf
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