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Ambassador Lambert at innovation exchange
Ambassador James Lambert at the first Canada-Netherlands innovation exchange in Amsterdam on September 11, 2013

When I arrived in 2010 as Canada’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, I was well aware that our two countries share an important and warm historical relationship.  That reservoir of friendship is a real asset. But I also knew there was a great deal of space to move beyond nostalgia.  We share an impressive economic and political partnership, and it brings our people real benefits.  We need to deepen the profile of the future-oriented dimensions of this relationship.
One particularly important channel for our future-oriented cooperation with the Dutch is the forward-looking conference series entitled Design for the Future.  We launched this project with the Dutch Embassy in Canada as a way to give shape to some of our concrete priorities.  The idea was that game-changing ideas and technologies would be profiled each year, alternating between Canada and the Netherlands.  The first Design for the Future event came in Ottawa in October 2011, courtesy of the Dutch Embassy.  In this case it was quite literally about design, and in particular, sustainable green building. Celebrated Dutch architect Francine Houben gave a sellout lecture. Two years later, the discussion continues to generate itself through a Sustainable Building Network that emerged through this process. Bravo!
When the lead on the Design for the Future project passed to our Embassy here in The Hague, we had no shortage of potential themes to explore.  But we have ultimately decided to focus on what is in my view one of the key motifs for the future of our bilateral relationship, that of innovation partnerships.
At the level of government, business and the individual, Canada and the Netherlands realize that our 21st century competitiveness must depend on adopting new approaches and new technologies.  Bilateral innovation collaboration and commercialization are key aspects of this goal.
Canada is at the forefront in developing and adopting innovation strategies and policies that drive economic growth.  The last federal budget continued to underline this commitment by investing in education and training, basic and applied research, and the translation of public research knowledge to the private sector. We strive for the correct balance between pure and applied research.  We actively involve Canadian research institutions and collaborating firms in the development of next-generation products -- electric vehicles, paper phones, wood-based jet fuel, simulation technologies and the new chemicals and plastics that will shape tomorrow’s bio-based economy.

Meanwhile, our own embassy is amongst a select few in the Canadian mission network that can boast a dedicated Science and Technology officer.

We are interested in learning from Dutch ideas, including the Top Sectors approach.  We are very pleased that Canada is among the priority markets identified under this approach.  This was borne out in the important delegation of high-tech firms that Vice-Minister of Trade Simon Smits led to Canada for Canada 3.0, the premier digital media showcase in North America.  We want to develop partnerships between our companies and our centres of excellence.  Dutch cities offer us lessons too:  Almere will host the World Horticultural Exhibition of Floriade in 2022 under the theme of “Growing Green Cities”; and Eindhoven was named Intelligent Community of the Year in 2011 by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum.
Clearly this interest is reciprocated with our Dutch friends.  This past spring, His Excellency Governor General David Johnston had a fascinating exchange with high-level innovation policy thinkers in The Hague. Our latest Design for the Future event was held September 11 in Amsterdam.  I was delighted to host over 100 Dutch and Canadian innovators and interlocutors in a dynamic symposium titled Fuelling Innovation: Connect, Collaborate, and Commercialize.
We took Canadian communication guru Marshall McLuhan’s maxim “The medium is the message” to heart.  So during that event, we reached out to audiences in the business, academic and government communities in both of our countries through an innovative, social media-driven exchange, highlighting these speakers and outcomes.  As a result, almost 60,000 people got our message, either directly or through retweeting by our collaborators and partners.
Our project continues as we implement an Innovation Roadmap throughout the rest of this year.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to find out more about how you can get involved.

Ambassador James M. Lambert
Thursday, September 26, 2013




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