Message from Eric Fournier, Director General R&D Innovation

Innovation is a team sport. Nothing gets accomplished without great players, solid coaching, and the drive towards the finish line. It’s also important to have a game plan as to where you are going.

IDEaS had a game plan going into 2020, and then life threw us a curveball: COVID-19. But our team was able to improvise. We went virtual, adapted our processes and were able to quickly pivot to assist in the pandemic response — all within months of the pandemic’s arrival.

Preserving personal protective equipment (PPE). Dealing with moral trauma. Sanitizing workspaces. These concepts are things we are now familiar with, and these are the challenges that IDEaS helped face as part of the larger Government of Canada response to COVID-19.

Throughout all this sea of change, the program was still able to advance technology along the defence innovation continuum. We hosted virtual events, funded 13 new challenges, invested over $72 million, signed 171 projects, and initiated our first Test Drive.

After three years, hundreds of projects funded and countless assessments and adjustments by our evaluators, we are now starting to see projects that entered the IDEaS innovation pipeline at a low Solution Readiness Level (SRL) develop into full prototypes ready for testing in real world situations. This is the final step before potentially transitioning solutions to DND/CAF. And while not all solutions will be a fit, we offer ample off-ramping partners and activities planned so that the innovator’s journey can continue. The projects also offer new ways of thinking to our partners within and outside government.

This year’s Test Drive was the first direct result of work we funded and helped advance through our Competitive Projects element to achieve a SRL of 8 or higher that the CAF was ready to take into a real world environment for testing. Innovation takes time, but this Test Drive shows the impact of our program on DND/CAF as they committed to test this solution with a goal of enhancing defence capabilities. As a team, we pushed, we tried, and learned. We found ways to move forward. There was a sustained effort from all levels to push this technology to a point of readiness. For that I am extremely proud.

And this is just the first of many. I continue to look forward to seeing the things we didn’t even know were possible.

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