Results from recent studies to help Invest Ottawa advance city's innovation, says Lazenby

Tom Pechloff
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Invest Ottawa is using the results of two recent studies to boost innovation in the city, CEO Bruce Lazenby said this week.

Invest Ottawa president and CEO Bruce Lazenby

The organization has an innovation management clinic already in place, but Mr. Lazenby said he wasn’t prepared to talk about what other plans the agency has to boost the city’s standing as an innovation hub.

“Over the next quarter or so, you’ll see the specific and precise steps we’re going to take to advance the whole agenda of innovation,” he said.

The clinic is a half-day session where companies can “come in and expose themselves to the science of innovation,” Mr. Lazenby said. At the end of the session, they get a report card to let them know how they are doing.

“I think if I went to every one of the 1,700 technology companies in Ottawa and asked them, 90 per cent would say ‘sure,’ but if they actually applied the test they might find they have not been as innovative as they thought.”

The clinic, he added, is open to companies outside the tech sector as well.

The results from the smart community and innovation studies show that businesses have confidence in the city’s ability to be a smart community – defined as collaborative, entrepreneurial, with good jobs, education, recreation and health care – and that they believe it will continue to be a leader in innovation.

The innovation study launched in August found that Ottawa is more innovative than most Canadian cities. While that might not seem surprising, Mr. Lazenby said it wasn’t a guarantee.

“We’ve got 120,000 federal government employees in town,” he said, adding the next two largest employers are the province and the municipality.

“When you’ve got that level of government involvement in the city, you could fear that innovation and technology might get squeezed out. We’re glad that’s not the case.”

He liked the fact that 85 per cent of those surveyed felt the city’s infrastructure was in good shape.

“You would expect a G7 capital to have that kind of support,” he said.

Levels of entrepreneurship and collaboration in the city also received high marks, but the study also found there are definite areas that need work.

For instance, 40 per cent of those surveyed said the level of innovation in the city is not high enough for Ottawa to remain competitive in the future. That gives Invest Ottawa something to “dig into,” Mr. Lazenby said.

“We need to understand how do we systemically create the opportunity for more innovation,” he said, adding it’s not an Invest Ottawa problem as much as it is a community problem.

Mr. Lazenby said Invest Ottawa has a great partner in the city. Ottawa’s director of economic development and innovation, Saad Bashir, has started a new program allowing innovative local companies to come to city hall with unsolicited solutions.

“He’s frankly been overwhelmed by the response,” Mr. Lazenby said.

The study also found two-thirds of those surveyed believe the community don’t see innovation as a top priority.

“I think we as a city need to understand the threat,” Mr. Lazenby said. “We already saw all the technology manufacturing that used to happen in Ottawa in the ’80s move to Taiwan. If we don’t want to see new innovation moving offshore, we better focus on the fact we need to get ahead and stay ahead if we want to continue to have a strong private sector here in Ottawa.”

Geographic location: Ottawa, Taiwan

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