RIM is Canada's largest company by market value and is now one of the 10 most valuable companies on Nasdaq—a list headed by Microsoft and Google in the top two positions. With its size and resources, it could have pursued any approach to innovation that it wanted, and it chose to put its support behind startups.
It could have allocated the money to university professors and told them to stop what they were working on and focus their efforts on coming up with a bunch of patents ... which RIM might then incorporate into its products.
Or it could have invited companies to rummage through RIM's patents—particularly any that aren't being used—to see if there was something there that they'd like to try to commercialize.
But it didn't do either, and there's a lesson there, particularly for government. While government policies and programs for high-tech startups have improved significantly over the last few years, there is still a tendency to think that "innovation" is something that primarily happens at universities and research labs, and that these institutions should be focusing on generating patents while the government helps create an infrastructure to push institutionally-created intellectual property into the business realm.
With the BlackBerry Partners Fund, RIM again shows that it understands that innovation isn't just something that is transferred to startups, it is something created by startups of all kinds.