Canada’s prosperity has relied too heavily on the here and now of deficit spending, booming real estate and debt-financed household consumption. We must instead redirect investment to the wealth and well-being of the future, particularly our ability to invent and innovate, generate world-leading technologies and firms and ultimately capture global markets. The invention and adoption of new products, services and processes must be the foundation of rising productivity and long-term prosperity.

The purpose of this paper is to set out an institutional and policy blueprint for the future CARPA. We draw on a combination of primary research (including comparative analysis of peer jurisdictions) and our own policy experience to put forward the design, governance, operational and programmatic elements that we believe are crucial building blocks for CARPA.

  • Section 1 discusses the differences between incremental and radical innovation, including the factors that can cause the market to produce fewer breakthrough ideas and technologies than we may need and the role for public policy to solve for this market failure.
  • Section 2 examines DARPA and other advanced research projects agencies around the world to discern the key characteristics that contribute to their effectiveness as catalysts for breakthrough ideas and technologies and as a bridge to their market-based application.
  • Section 3 analyzes Canada’s existing innovation ecosystem and contextualizes the need for a DARPA-like agency to advance high-risk, high-reward projects and help promising ideas and technologies transition across the entire innovation continuum.
  • Section 4 outlines the key design, governance, operational and programmatic elements that will determine CARPA’s ultimate effectiveness as an institutional addition to Canada’s overall innovation ecosystem.

“A capacity for innovation is no longer merely a prerequisite for rising living standards. It is a fundamental strategic advantage for dealing with various environmental, national security and social challenges.”

NEW NORTH STAR III: The Case for a Canada Advanced Research Projects Agency

December 2021.

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PPF would like to thank the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship for its collaboration on the Canada’s Moonshot project. We are grateful for substantive discussions with Sarah Doyle, Brookfield’s former Director of Policy and Research, as well as Research Lead Dr. Thomas Goldsmith and former research leads Creig Lamb and Preet Mondair.

We are particularly grateful for the continued support of our partners, the Business Council of Canada (BCC), the Community Economic Development and Employability Corporation (CEDEC), Johnson & Johnson, MDA and Scotiabank.

PPF would also like to thank Canada’s Moonshot Expert Advisory Council for its valuable insights into moonshotoriented innovation policies: Ilse Treurnicht, Bill Tam, Armughan Ahmad, Michel Bergeron, Clement Bourgogne, Judy Fairburn, Carol Anne Hilton, Pari Johnston, Zayna Khayat, Adam Legge, Kendra MacDonald, Derrick Rossi, Nadia Theodore and Sara Wolfe.