Lowering Barriers in Immigration Lowers Barriers in Innovation

Lowering Barriers in Immigration Lowers Barriers in Innovation

Business innovation is critical for all companies. And it’s especially vital for new businesses started by entrepreneurs. This is because every new and innovative idea has the potential to create value for a company, leading to increased profits and greater efficiency.

Business innovation isn’t about just one thing, and it’s a mindset that can be applied across an organization. Innovation can occur in the technology required to run business processes, process improvements that ramp up efficiency and productivity, and new products and services.

Often overlooked in many companies’ innovation initiatives is the source of that innovation. While native populations within a company or country are expected to contribute to new ideas for the companies they work for, many don’t realize the importance of the role played by immigrants in the business community.

Immigration and Politics

For many countries, immigration is a highly political topic. Driven by diverse factors such as a highly interconnected world, climate change, the yearning for economic freedom relative to their home country, and many other variables, the last few decades have seen unprecedented migration.

But while immigration is a hot topic politically, it’s a practical topic economically. The right blend of policy and effort means newcomers inject their collective experience, education, and ideas into industries that benefit growth.

For example, one study conducted using US patent and trademark data over 36 years showed that immigrants disproportionately contribute to business innovation. The study found that while comprising roughly 16% of a country’s population of inventors, they account for fully 22% of all the patent total.

The Pathways to Lowering Barriers

Different countries have erected many laws that are barriers to immigrants that could add to the native population’s innovative capabilities. And while each barrier must be addressed independently by each country, there are some general pathways to lower the obstacles to immigration to provide greater access to those inventors and entrepreneurs among them.

Removing Country Caps

Many countries cap total immigration from any given country as a proportion of total immigration. Eliminating these caps can allow immigration officials to surge visas and residency permits to those populations with the skills and education needed. This would directly improve innovation by allowing more entrepreneurs into the country. Still, it would also indirectly improve it by acting as a magnet to attract more entrepreneurs who would otherwise go elsewhere.

Increasing Education-Based Visas

Countries often have a specific program that allows immigration based on specific education or skill sets such as medical professionals, sciences, etc. For example, US programs such as the H1-B visa and Canada’s Express entry allow specialized professions expedited entry. Increasing the number of these visas places greater emphasis on those skills and professions which can often be leveraged in the entrepreneurial space.

Rethinking Wage Ranking

The lottery system is the most common mechanism used to allow specialty professions on specialized visa programs into a country. By ranking applications based on potential wages, demand is factored into the equation, and more high-demand entrants would be allowed to impact innovation within those industries.

Modifying Visa Structures

While students in many western countries may attend colleges and universities, there’s no guarantee of residency status after they finish their education. There are numerous restrictions on how long new graduates can stay and work after graduation. Adjusting these policies to allow greater flexibility among students transitioning to high-demand fields would bolster overall innovation.

Broadening Entrepreneur Visa Availability

The explosive growth of high-tech industries and industries experiencing high growth have already triggered countries like Canada and Austria to increase visas for entrepreneurs explicitly. Broadening the entrepreneur visa availability would serve as a magnet for those with the skills and resources capable of entering and starting a business right away.

Looking Ahead

The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre at Georgian College has a strong history of preparing new entrepreneurs to succeed. Through support, networking, resources, training, and more, the HBEC can help new business leaders discover how a diverse workforce can lead to greater value and innovation. Contact us to learn how we can help guide your journey.

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