How can public investments in research translate into more innovation? A big part of the answer lies in improving science-industry linkages — and better methodologies to measure research impact, predicts Professor Sandra Schillo of the Telfer School. This comes as the application and validation of public research has emerged as an increasingly top-of-mind issue for governments around the world. “We don’t yet have a handle on all of the impacts — health, social, environmental — that governments are interested in, and currently, we’re a lot better at measuring some of the economic impacts,” she explains. “But I see great potential to bring evaluation tools from related fields into the innovation space and to use new methodologies to assess performance.”
Schillo’s experience in government and the private sector have given her valuable insights on the dynamics of innovation. She has worked on technology transfer and intellectual property management at the National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. She founded Innovation Impact Inc., a consultancy which helps government organizations increase the impact they derive from their innovation and entrepreneurship activities; clients have included Industry Canada, many federal science-based departments and agencies, and NGOs that are active in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Her PhD dissertation focused on spin-offs companies, at the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, University of Kiel, Germany. She completed her Masters' degree in Engineering Management at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany. One of the many takeaways from her years living in Germany, from an innovation perspective, is that the country has a well-deserved reputation for “investing in the kinds of data-driven investigations that benefit innovation management strategy,” Schillo says. “It puts them at an advantage as compared to many other jurisdictions in terms of the ability of research to contribute to policy and program development.”
Schillo contends that Canadian policy development is hampered by the lack of access to relevant and timely data and analysis that could lead to better policies and programs – and ultimately to improved economic performance. A key theme of her work is therefore to contribute to a stronger evidence base to improve policy and program development in research and innovation management. In one project, funded by the NCA BioFuelNet Canada, she is working with colleagues to position biofuel R&D for enhanced use in policy, regulation, practice and commercialization. The research is expected help make future biofuels research more reflective of the needs of the industry actors and policy developers.
Another project, in collaboration with a colleague at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, is titled “Applying Quality Function Deployment to Science, Technology and Innovation Policy” (supported by the Telfer-Sprott Research Fund). This study aims to develop frameworks that explicitly link science and innovation activities with the policy and program objectives they are intended to address.
Professor Schillo brings a unique perspective to these areas, as an academic who understands the policy, economic and management contexts of innovation. “I hope to use that perspective to ask relevant questions and to design research that will help us identify the actual barriers to Canadians deriving more value from their investments.”