CATA's CEO is absolutely right when he stresses the importance of changing the mindset of government staff so as to reduce barriers for product trials and introduction of new technologies. It is incredibly important when selling offshore (as all Canadian tech companies must in order to survive,) to be able to point to use of your product / service by governments 'back home', particularly when trying to sell into the public sector / government domain in other nations. These are huge markets --- especially in the U.S. and Europe, and their buyers look carefully at whether government and other public entities here are already using our products, before they'll even 'qualify' your product to compete.
I agree that there will be challenges here in building intelligent interest in what new Canadian technologies are available for use within the federal departments. The reality is that only a small handfull of the largest departments actually have any kind of forward looking / planning groups that are thinking about what problems they'll need to address, and what technologies might help them do so, five years or more down the road. But it's a start, and the folks at PWGSC (who proposed this program after concerns expressed by many organizations about the difficulty of selling into the federal & provincial governments,) are to be congratulated for trying to at least get something like this going, while navigating between the various trade rules of NAFTA, AIT, WTO-AGP, etc. without losing our Boy Scout trade badge. (If anybody thinks PWGSC is trying to tilt a level playing field, just have a look at what other nations do every day to ensure their own tech companies have opportunities at home.)
Ultimately, I would hope that this program can be successful enough that the federal government would agree to an ongoing program that would mimic the highly successful SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program in the U.S. This system requires large federal departments to devote a percentage of their internal R&D budgets to soliciting solutions to departmental challenges from U.S. tech SMEs, and over the years it's been in effect, hundreds of now successful new companies have been created as a result of the process, thousands of contracts awarded to American SMEs, and tens of thousands of jobs created. (All as confirmed by independent review.) CATA is to be congratulated for encouraging PWGSC to take this first small step, and hopefully others will follow.
Posted by Michael Turner