The Future of Corporate Innovation: with PwC Canada CEO, Bill McFarland and Paul Salvini

What does industry need in order to innovate in a corporate setting? How can the startup community leverage the opportunities within industry and tackle those big problems?

We recently had the pleasure of hosting PwC Canada’s CEO, Bill McFarland, for an informal discussion with Accelerator Centre CEO, Paul Salvini, to address those questions head-on.

We all know that the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor is at the forefront of Canadian innovation and entrepreneurship, but the region’s commitment to corporate innovation is one of the things that sets us apart from other innovation clusters.

“Waterloo has been quite successful with corporate innovation. The University of Waterloo is a significant source of that success,” says Salvini. “Through their co-op placement programs, 5,400 businesses have been connected with the incredible talent within the university.”

And industry is anxious for access to the talent coming out of the University of Waterloo. According to the recent PwC CEO Survey, 80% of CEOs are thinking about how innovation or disruption will impact their businesses. “We should all be thinking about innovation and about creating a diverse economy that is strong—for our children and for our grandchildren,” adds McFarland.

Often innovation is expected, easy to anticipate and plan for, but increasingly disruption has been the accidental result of improving the customer experience. “With the unprecedented level of disruption in today’s world, innovation has become a necessity and businesses are increasingly investing in R&D and innovation centres to proactively evolve​ and create rich environments to facilitate new thinking​. ​Disruptive innovations are not always planned​ and are more likely to flourish in organizations where challenging the status quo is accepted and encouraged​,” says McFarland. “That’s right,” adds Salvini. “For example, Apple didn’t set out to make a great phone. They set out to improve their media player by adding a phone. It was all about adding value to their customers.”

While there is opportunity for innovation in every industry, entrepreneurs often struggle to get access to meaningful problems and corporations struggle to get ahead of the curve when it comes to disruptive technologies.

Some of the most exciting advances—in areas like AI, quantum computing, cybersecurity, and nanotechnology—have the potential to disrupt multiple industries and provide significant opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“There is incredible research and great ideas coming out of universities, but entrepreneurs need access to big problems to make big impact and they need help commercializing those ideas,” says Salvini.

Corporations face several roadblocks to successful innovation, most commonly:

  • Culture: A management team that resists change or is risk-averse
  • Budget: No resources to work on exploring new technologies or opportunities
  • Talent: Corporations often seem less attractive to top talent than startups
  • Structure: Too many layers that slow down or impede progress

That is where the Accelerator Centre (AC) steps in.

Through our programming and strong connections with industry leaders like PwC, the AC is able to help industry innovate. Whether through offering corporations the ability to market test new ideas and form a spin-off company like Miovision’s “Teal” or through connecting corporate leaders with talent that can help them better anticipate—or even get ahead of—change, the AC is able to help corporate organizations foster a culture of innovation and embrace change.

As the AC continues to support entrepreneurs and leaders like PwC to embrace and lead a culture of innovation, we will continue to lead the way in innovating industry.

The Startup’s Guide to the Galaxy: No BS Advice from Successful Entrepreneurs and Tech Leaders

Entrepreneurship is cool, it’s sexy, and if you live in an innovation district like Waterloo or Silicon Valley, it’s part of pop culture.

It seems everyone is a founder of something nowadays. Unicorns are no longer just for children and the lure of the “Be your own boss!” message is stronger than ever. But, just like the most pop culture phenomena, startup culture doesn’t show you the whole story.

The truth is starting a company, particularly a tech company, is harder than it seems. For every one winner there are nine losers. Entrepreneurship is a career choice that requires specific skill, instinct, resilience, and a passion for delivering value.

But, if you can pull it off, building a successful company is highly rewarding.

Through my experiences designing programming at a world-renowned startup incubator, I see the entrepreneur’s journey – successes and failures – every day. My goal is to give startup founders and intrapreneurs the truth about building out innovative products and services, and to provide them with answers to questions about entrepreneurship that are hard to ask and, sometimes, hard to get honest answers to. “The Startup’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a digital coffee date with dozens of high profile startup founders, intrapreneurs, and mentors, like Mike Litt from Vidyard, Loren Padelford from Shopify, and Jana Levene from Google.

The posts in this series are samples of the interviews from a publication currently in development. Over the next several months, we will share these leaders’ no BS stories of entrepreneurship and get their take on what it is really like to start a technology company. We hope that the series will inspire you to be smart, plan for your successes, learn from your failures, and be a successful, kick-ass entrepreneur.

About the Authors

Clinton Ball is the Director of Client Programs and Initiatives at the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ontario.  As the co-founder of a small software company, Clinton can relate to those building out a technology company and is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs build and scale their companies. When he’s not designing or delivering Accelerator Centre Programming you can find Clinton reading up on the latest marketing, technology and entrepreneurship resources, exploring a new trail or coffee spot, or trying to get better at his swing on the golf course.

 

 

Tabatha Laverty is the Community Manager at the Accelerator Centre. As a passionate storyteller and digital marketer, she has worked with entrepreneurs, not-for-profits, and public service agencies for 5 years – helping them develop content, share their stories, and build their brands. When she isn’t writing or meeting new entrepreneurs, you can find her spending time with her husband and 2 young children.

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