Build-Up, Scale Up: Fostering Innovation in Canada

Build-Up, Scale Up: Fostering Innovation in Canada

Recently, IP Osgoode founder and director Prof. Giuseppina D’Agostino sat down with TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin to discuss “Fostering Innovation in Canada”. For the discussion, which aired October 25, Prof. D’Agostino was joined by Prof. Dan Breznitz (Co-Director of the Innovation Policy Lab and the Munk Chair of Innovation Studies at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs) and Dan Ciuriak (Senior Fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Director and Principal, Ciuriak Consulting Inc.). The panel had a wide-ranging conversation about the challenges and opportunities Canada faces as the federal government advances its Innovation and Skills Plan and the country’s first National Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy.  The video of the discussion is available here.

Prof. D’Agostino helped to link the two federal initiatives, describing Canada as a country home to entrepreneurial talent but lacking the ecosystem and infrastructure necessary to capitalize on these resources domestically. Earlier, Mr. Paikin had stated that the innovation or knowledge-based economy represented the “future economy”. This is primarily true, as information-based, knowledge-intensive industries and technologies affect a growing number of sectors. However, as Prof. Breznitz helped to highlight that outside of Canada, other companies and their home countries — such as Google in the United States (US) — are already reaping the rewards of knowledge-based research and development, some of which Canadian universities originally generated.

Answering Mr. Paikin’s question about tackling the widening pay gap, Prof. D’Agostino highlighted the work of the IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic. “You do need the patents, the IP, so with patents come all the other associated IP rights,” said Prof. D’Agostino, “you also need that ecosystem.”

Speaking to her experience with law students in both Canada and the US, Prof. D’Agostino argued that Canada is lacking a culture of innovation. “In many ways, when we look to other countries or when I go back to my time in the [Silicon] Valley, you saw that there: they go to law school, they want to make millions. They want to be the next Facebook. When students go to law school here, they want to go work in a law firm or make policy or other options but they don’t really come to law school to make that big company. So, I think there needs to be a cultural shift and that’s something that takes time. That’s something more on the ground.”

The IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic, conceived and founded by Prof. D’Agostino, seeks to build off of the burgeoning ecosystems in the Toronto, York, and Waterloo regions to help develop the next generation of commercialization-savvy IP practitioners. By having Innovation Clinic Fellows assist student start-ups at York University, in particular the BEST Lab at the Lassonde School of Engineering, inventors at incubators and accelerators, such as ventureLAB and YEDI, and entrepreneurs in the Waterloo Region and elsewhere who are in need of pro bono assistance to protect and formalize their ideas and IP, the IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic is helping to build an ecosystem based on IP awareness, support, and inclusivity.

Under the supervision of partners at Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, the Innovation Clinic Fellows take carriage of their own files and provide IP information and support to Canadian start-ups and entrepreneurs as they work to scale-up and commercialize their products or provide publicly oriented tools and services to disadvantaged communities.

At the same time, Innovation Clinic Fellows are able to hone their understanding of IP law and commercialization practices, enabling them to provide more value to their Clinic Clients and those they will work with during their future careers as legal practitioners. A small number of similar clinics operate in Canada, including the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and Windsor Law’s International IP Law Clinic. As Prof. Myra Tawfik and Jim Hinton have argued in a number of places (see here, here, and here), these pro bono IP law clinics help address a gap in Canada’s innovation ecosystem.  Mr. Paikin and Mr. Ciruiak both note that this ground-up approach may be a generational project. But in just over 7 years of operation, the IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic has already demonstrated success, providing services to hundreds of clients and having trained close to a hundred law students from Osgoode Hall Law School.

This summer’s National IP Strategy Consultations as well as the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s new five-year business strategy highlight the need to improve education, build IP awareness and outreach, and improve IP savviness and access to IP advice. As Prof. D’Agostino points out, the federal government will need to demonstrate a long-term financial and public commitment to increasing capacity in these areas. If expanded and networked across the country, IP law clinics, such as the IP Osgoode Innovation represent ground up ways to fill a gap in the country’s innovation ecosystem.


The IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic is operating with support from the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University’s Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, Innovation York and Norton Rose Fulbright LLP.

If you would like more information about the Clinic or are interested in engaging the services of the Clinic, please contact us: IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Email:, Tel: (416) 650-8449, Fax: (416) 736-5736, Website: