05/21/2013 12:35 EDT | Updated 07/21/2013 05:12 EDT

The Third Industrial Revolution Is Here - Think Bigger

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I recently had the unique experience of seeing both ends of the innovation spectrum come together. On the one side, I was watching Team Canada-ISEF 2013 head to Phoenix, to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). ISEF is the world's largest high school science research competition and this year 18 Canadian high school students will compete against 1,500 peers in this annual competition. As I stated in a previous blog, these bright young minds have both inspired and awed me as their ideas show a complex understanding of the world around us.

While cheering on Team Canada-ISEF from afar, I also attended Canada 3.0 2013. Chad Gaffield, President of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, said about this event:

"a software executive, a university president, a federal minister, a provincial minister, and a mayor came together to launch a symbolic moonshot designed to inspire Canadian leadership in the coming digital 3.0 universe and make Canada a true Digital Nation by 2017."

I found myself nodding vigorously as I read his remarks and his conclusion that we need to have a "shared commitment to do all that we can do to realize Canada's potential to lead in the Digital age...there is no time to lose especially since 2017 now seems right around the corner."

Listening to the Canada 3.0 opening keynote from Chris Anderson, former Wired editor and best-selling author (Makers: The New Industrial Revolution; The Long Tail; and Free), I found myself reflecting on Canada's role in the digital age. Anderson shared his experience of building a motor for a backyard project, in the virtual world. He downloaded the design app and once he was done instead of clicking "print" he clicked "make," and manufacturers a world away started building the motor which arrived 10 days later by courier. No massive engineering department or factory; it was all done with the touch of a finger. This is the future of manufacturing and what Anderson calls the Third Industrial Revolution.

Anderson says, "... new technologies of digital design and rapid prototyping give everyone the power to invent." These new technologies have the potential to open up opportunities we have never seen before, leaving me to wonder how we're going to leverage this new-found power.

Another keynote at Canada 3.0 was delivered by the Founder & CEO of Kobo, Michael Serbinis, who is recognized for his innovation and has created a real Canadian success story. His key theme was to encourage us to Think Bigger, sharing that Kobo's objective from the outset to be a global leader, rather than focusing only on Canada or North America. And it was during his presentation that the impact and import of his words truly struck me, as Michael is a Team Canada-ISEF alumnus, winning Gold for his design of a high temperature superconductor propulsion system.

The circle of life? Perhaps. I'd like to believe I was seeing the long-term impact of generating excitement around science at an early age to foster a lifelong passion to push boundaries. It is only by redefining the impossible that we can bring the world's next game changers to life. Indeed, Thinking Bigger.

Throughout this week, I found myself energized by the possibilities and potential for what is to come, and enthusiastic about the bright future that is ahead if we can continue to foster and encourage governments, business leaders and young students to look beyond the limits to make the impossible, possible.

From the perspectives of both these events, I find myself wondering what it will take to win in this Third Industrial Revolution, and I keep coming back to our youth, these students whose brilliant minds know no limits. Are we doing enough to encourage and inspire them?

Are we finding the right venues to foster innovation and commercialization of the best ideas in Canada, or will we retain our role as an exporter of raw goods, rather than an information economy of the future?

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