Joy Johnson on Harnessing the Power of Data for Innovation

Those attending the 2018 #BCTECH Summit from May 14-16—the largest technology conference in Western Canada—will come together to hear from those pushing the boundaries of innovation. Thousands will arrive to explore how technology is driving cross-industry growth and change.  

Simon Fraser University’s Vice-President, Research and International, Joy Johnson has been asked to speak at #BCTECH this year. She will be discussing how early on, SFU recognized an emerging field, one that touched on every part of the university. A field that holds enormous potential for innovation: Big Data. 

Johnson will be speaking in the session, “Harnessing the Power of Data for Innovation,” along with moderator, Kim Logan, Business Development Director, IoT, Telus. Together, they will explain and discuss how using data to inform decisions sounds simple, but the reality is it takes a team, a process, and an understanding of the data’s true potential to access the results. 

“Increasingly, the face of innovation doesn’t belong to one individual, or even to a single team,” explains Johnson. “It involves many individuals and organizations working together, drawing on each other’s strengths and perspectives, to tackle big, complex problems — with an impact greater than the sum of their parts.”

Johnson will share about SFU’s innovation strategy—SFU Innovates—built upon the notion of collaboration, and operating across the university to promote: community and industry research partnerships; business incubation and acceleration; entrepreneurship; and social innovation. Through SFU Innovates, new programs and platforms have been developed to help researchers identify community needs, seek market opportunities, and work with industry partners. 

An example of the immense power of partnerships is Canada's new Digital Technology Supercluster led by British Columbia. The goal is to generate ambitious strategies for transforming regional innovation ecosystems. These will ultimately lead to major job-creating opportunities. Both SFU and Telus are participating in the supercluster, and are teaming up with other research-intensive universities and companies to create innovative projects. 

Johnson will also discuss KEY, SFU’s Big Data Initiative. KEY offers consulting services, workshops and events, academic programs, and of course, partnerships. The university is investing in data-intensive research across all eight faculties, training people with the skills and expertise to put big data to work. For research, community impact, and innovation. 

One critical point that Johnson looks forward to discussing in the #BCTECH session is the truth about big data: that it is disruptive and the conversations that convene from partnerships—the ethical debates—are fundamental.

Johnson explains, “At the heart of these debates, is a question at the heart of technology ethics. And that is, ‘Just because we can, should we?’ The answer isn’t easy, and that’s okay. All of us have a responsibility to ensure big data yields value. Economic, social, and environmental value.”

Innovation walks hand-in-hand with disruption. And while innovation is important, so too are the choices we make about how it will shape society. 

“We don’t know what the future holds — if we did, we couldn’t honestly call what we’re doing innovation. But I can tell you SFU is working hard to be at the forefront,” says Johnson.

Don’t miss the #BCTECH session, “Harnessing the Power of Data for Innovation” with Joy Johnson and Kim Logan on Tuesday, May 15.

Other SFU Speakers at #BCTECH:

Sarah Lubik, SFU’s director of entrepreneurship and SFU Innovates leader, has also been selected to speak at #BCTECH on “Accelerating Innovation: What University Incubators can Really Do,” and Patrick Pennefather, Centre for Digital Media, faculty member will speak in the session, “Future Jobs: Closing the Gap Between Industry and Education.”