A new report has ranked Canada 14th in a field of 110 countries when it comes to innovation in manufacturing. Surprised? Many Canadians have swallowed the mantra that we are doomed to be an unproductive resource-based economy, or that the next step is to be tied to a US-based service economy. Not so fast. International consulting firm Boston Consulting Group recently looked at government support for innovation in familiar areas such as the quality of infrastructure and tax and education policies. It also looked at how well innovative companies did based on employment growth, high-tech exports, and the amount of intellectual property generated and employment growth. Canada made it to the top tier ahead of Britain, Israel, Australia, Germany and France, but was still behind stalwarts the US and Japan. “When you look at manufacturing in Canada, the emphasis is on using technology for areas such as inventory management and remote monitoring,” says Jeff Lowe, vice-president, marketing communications, Telus Business Solutions. “Remote training and e-learning are also strong trends in manufacturing.” As well, Info-Tech Research tells Telemanagement its clients are indicating that in the coming months they will be going back to vendors and playing hardball, although the research firm generally confirms the sense from Neil MacDonald at Gartner Research that security is not being cut. On the enterprise side, “There is interest where they will spend money to save money,” says MacDonald. Often, wireless is part of that equation. “When you look at the top wireless growth areas, e-mail and Internet access are first,” says Lowe from Telus. “After that wireless is used for information extension on corporate applications.” This approach builds on the basic need to enhance efficiency and productivity by expanding applications that are considered ‘horizontal’ in that they don’t have an industry-specific, or ‘vertical’, focus. Overall, industry research has suggested that this tendency will buffer the wireless industry from the downturn. In fact, a recent research note from ABI Research, while acknowledging that the weakened economy is impacting every industry, nonetheless states that the mobile wireless industry remains relatively strong. And despite the death knell that has been rung in financial services, Lowe says that the sector will continue to spend on ICT – a take that deserves a grain of salt coming from a vendor, but has some credibility given the fact that Canada’s financial services sector has proven itself to be the most robust in the industrialized world. “Financial services use technology more strategically than any other industry in Canada,” he says. “It is unlike oil and gas and other primary industries, which will use technology to run a business, but not ICT per se to advance a business.” Still, enterprises in all sectors will be cautious about spending in the coming year. Opex will come under pressure, and new capital expenditures will be delayed indefinitely – or at least until there is better visibility.