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No new money, but support for N.L. innovation agenda

Mark Dobbin speaks with reporters following the release of the Business Innovation Agenda. Dobbin is chair of the new InnovateNL board, tasked with promoting start-up success, entrepreneurship and innovation in business in the province.
Mark Dobbin speaks with reporters following the release of the Business Innovation Agenda. Dobbin is chair of the new InnovateNL board.

Immigration streams, regional pilot programs in the works

The provincial government wants to see more start-up companies, more technology, more productivity in the province. It is hoping its new Business Innovation Agenda — with the work of InnovateNL — will be enough to make it happen.

Released on Wednesday in St. John’s, the 24-page agenda does not mention any new money for the work, but does describe a desire for a “culture of innovation” in the province.

It includes specific objectives, all meant to improve on the status quo for local business.

The province commits to, among other things: offer seed capital in government programming; make money available for companies that are improving productivity; and support industry-led pilot projects and new research programs.

The Liberals again state plans to have both “international entrepreneur” and “international graduate entrepreneur” categories added to the provincial nominee program (this was also mentioned in the immigration plan released in March). The Telegram confirmed these additions are still under discussion with the federal government.

Further details are still to come on five pilot projects — “regional innovation systems” — mentioned in the innovation plan. One pilot program will offer support of some kind to fisheries and tourism projects in southern Labrador and the Northern Peninsula, there will be another pilot program supporting forestry and agriculture in and around Corner Brook, one for aerospace and defence projects in and around Gander, one for industrial technology development on both the Burin peninsula and in the Clarenville area, and one for ocean technology on the Avalon.

While there were no announcements of new money, the suggestion is the provincial government will work within the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation (TCII) and through other departments supporting business (such as Advanced Education, Skills and Labour responsible for worker training) to complete the objectives.

The Liberals are using existing funds and programs while targeting all available private funds and federal dollars, to get available resources to local individuals and companies.

The release Wednesday was met with applause from the crowd — one that included not just government staff and MHAs, but private business owners.

“The support we have received from the Newfoundland government over the years has been tremendous,” said Marilyn Bown, chief financial officer for Quorum Information Technologies.

Bown told the gathering how her company opened an office in the province in 2006 and has since grown from five to 76 employees, with plans for further growth.

She said the Business Innovation Agenda gives her confidence in the future.

InnovateNL chair Mark Dobbin said there has never been a better time for a new or growing innovative company to access capital in the province.

He said InnovateNL, with the business innovation agenda, will break down the silos of existing organizations within the province — whether they are supporting technology companies or worker training or start-ups — for increasingly simple, direct support.

“As we get further engaged in the process, I believe the programs put in place and the way in which those programs are administered and delivered will be more effective because they truly understand the requirements of a young entrepreneur or a larger company as well,” he said.


What are you talking about? Oh that.

As the provincial government rolls out plans and agendas, it can get easy to become confused by all of the names flying around.

For example, on Wednesday the province launched its new Business Innovation Agenda. It also launched The Way Forward on Business Innovation — they’re the same thing.

It’s the same way you might hear a reference to the provincial agenda on immigration released back in March and it would be the same thing as hearing about The Way Forward on Immigration (or the province’s plan on immigration or the immigration plan).

It’s all essentially different phrases being used to refer to the same thing.

The event Wednesday notably included members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Innovation Council, including chair Mark Dobbin. It was referred to at different times as the N.L. innovation council, the InnovateNL council, the InnovateNL advisory council, the InnovateNL board and the Innovate council.

But again, the point is it’s a single thing — a group of people tasked with helping to create more interconnected supports for both new and growth business in the province.

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