OMX chats with Eric Fournier, Director General for the IDEaS program at the Department of National Defense - which aims to tackle future defense and security challenges through innovators across the country.
Eric Fournier, Director General, S&T Strategic Decision Support
Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS)
Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC)
at the Department of National Defense (DND)
OMX: What is IDEaS and what is it trying to accomplish?
Eric Fournier: IDEaS stands for Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security. Our mandate is to improve Canada's defence capability and economic impact by leveraging the potential of Canadian innovators everywhere - be it from small companies, to large organizations, to non-profits and academia, to individuals.
Our ultimate goal is to provide the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Canada’s defense and security communities with unique and innovation solutions to the pressing defence and security challenges of tomorrow.
We're investing $1.6 billion over the next 20 years to run competitions, networks, and sandboxes to that end.
OMX: What exactly does IDEaS consist of?
EF: IDEaS consists of eight program elements - five which are directed towards innovators: Innovation Networks, Contests, Competitive Projects, Sandboxes, and Innovation Assessments and Implementations and three which are enablers: Ideation, Integrators, and Mobility.
All five are a crucial part of IDEaS' innovation community and will accelerate the competition and collaboration required for new ideas and technologies.
OMX: How does IDEaS differ from other government innovation programs?
EF: The IDEaS Program seeks to resolve defence and security challenges. IDEaS supports innovation activities across Solution Readiness Levels 1-9 and all innovators from academia to small and large companies are eligible to submit proposal(s). Additionally, IDEaS fosters networks, incentivizes collaboration and development expertise, and provides opportunities for innovators to interact with CAF leadership while demonstrating their solutions to obtain operational feedback.
OMX: Who's won IDEaS funding so far?
EF: The first IDEaS contracts were awarded just this August for the challenge of increasing recruitment, retention, and representation of women in the CAF.
Since then, we have been working in awarding all 162 contracts under our first Call for Proposals for Competitive Projects. We have awarded 90 already with the remaining expected to be finalized by the end of November.
OMX: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started at IDEaS.
EF: I began my career in Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC) as a Defence Scientist in the the Precisions Weapons Section at the Valcartier Research Centre.
From there, I worked at a number of high-level positions in science and defense in Canada - such as the Director, Science & Technology Air for the Air Force S&T Program and the Director of DRDC’s Centre for Operational Research and Analysis (CORA) - until 2014. I then moved to London to work as the Defence R&D Counsellor, acting as a liaison in defence (S&T) between Canada and the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
I returned home to Canada in July 2017, and was appointed to my current role as the Director General for Strategic Decision Support and lead of the IDEaS program.