It seems like most economies around the world are slowly (some more than others) getting back to the new normal.

This new normal will be different and require innovative initiatives to jump-start the economy.

Those initiatives must come from the private sector. Governments will also need to play a major role to structure these initiatives and act as a catalyst for them to ensure economies go in a ustainable direction.

On May 12th, 2020 I was privileged to have the opportunity to facilitate an international panel of innovation and startup experts that participated in the Montreal NewTech conference titled Connecting Intelligence: Collaborative Innovation in Time of Covid-19. 

The panelists reside in Asia, Europe and Canada and were the following:

  • Edward Chan, Sr Business Development Manager, Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation
  • Yuki Kishi, Plug and Play Japan, Director, Fintech and Brand & Retail, Japan Research Institute InnoHub
  • Chris Lindener, Global Head of Airbus BizLabs & Regional representative for Bavaria of the German Startups Association, Germany
  • Marc Augustin, Chargé de mission accompagnement de projets et Export (SIRENA Start-up) – Aeroparc, Bordeaux Technowest, France
  • Rebecca Croll, Content Director, Startupfest, Quebec, Canada
  • Benjamin Bergen, CEO, Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI), Ontario, Canada

I asked them two questions. The first question was around initiatives that had emerged in their ecosystem during the Covid period that helped their respective ecosystems and economies.

The second question was the top recommendation they had for governments, at all levels, to encourage collaborative innovation that would help the economic recovery.

The following is a summary of the answers given by panelists to these 2 questions.

You can also watch the recording of the entire conference which also includes an all Canadian panel of startup experts.

I also want to give a shout out to Hopin. Hopin is a new online events platform that was used for this Collaborative Innovation web conference. It has features that truly help recreate the conference vibe in an innovative way.

Ecosystem initiatives during the quarantine


The Hong Kong Technological Park, that houses tech startups, waived the rent for a period of 6 months for all of its over 800 tech startups.

In Japan, contrary to popular belief, companies were still operating in mostly lower tech environments. The quarantine forced these companies to accelerate their adoption of technologies.


Airbus quickly mobilized the needed aircrafts to bring to Germany the needed medical equipment to supply their healthcare system.
The Airbus BizLab started scouting very early for new solutions that will help return trust in airline travel.


The CCI studied and disseminated information on where the gaps for subsidies and relief measures to startups were. It also is studying how to fast-track the commercialisation of the R&D from universities.

The Montreal Startup Fest transferred its annual competition to a digital format. It helps bring together multiple organizations in the ecosystem to accelerate startups development by offering significant prize money to the best startups. 


Top recommendation for governments to help collaborative innovation


  • Create open data sandboxes for businesses to help them understand the impact of their post-Covid business decisions. Example: Provide access to data that would help evaluate the financial impact for restaurants that can only open a portion of their tables. – Rebecca Croll
  • Don’t just pour money into the startup ecosystem. Give startups real projects and challenges to work on. – Chris Lindener
  • Governments should make (high-risk) bets on the startups that could contribute significantly to help return society to future prosperity. – Benjamin Bergen
  • Invest, even more, in green tech and clean tech. Help make the products and services, that come out of these types of initiatives, more easily accessible (financially and at the regulatory level) to customers and consumers. – Marc Augustin
  • Help the demand side by encouraging consumers to adopt new socially desirable solutions. – Edward Chan
  • Take advantage of this opportune time to accelerate the adoption of digitalization in government services. – Yuki Kishi


These initiatives and recommendations should be carefully considered and implemented by organisations and governments, where it makes sense.