TEDx Kanata: 150 years on, what will make Canada prosperous?

Fresh of a countrywide “Innovation Nation” tour, Microsoft Canada’s John Weigelt was feeling nostalgic for the early days of confederation.

The innovations that crafted a young Canada – Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the advent of penicillin, and transatlantic broadcasts from Signal Hill – were the kind of bold, agenda-setting moves that Weigelt believes made Canada so prosperous in its first 150 years.

As national technology officer for Microsoft Canada, he says his job is to help organizations figure out where the technology puck is going. Weigelt told the crowd at TEDx Kanata that the only way for Canada to know where technology will take us in the future is to shoot the puck ourselves.

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“If we design it ourselves, we know what’s going to happen, we define what’s going to happen,” he says.

Weigelt sees a lack of innovators, the Bantings and the Bells, stepping up and leading Canada into the next 150 years. Complacency with the status quo of agriculture and transportation, he says, will leave the country behind as hyperloops and bullet trains literally and figuratively outpace our nation.

Startups and entrepreneurs that aspire to build a quick prototype at a hackathon and wait for an acquisition fail to inspire the next generation of engineers, coders and innovators.

“We need Canadians to stand up and be a little bold, be brash, and say I’m going to be the next big thing,” he says. “We need to build our innovation muscle.”

Collectively, citizens and entrepreneurs must nudge one another from the status quo and towards a made-in-Canada future.

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