innovation doesn’t need building.

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UPDATE: Seems I’m in good company on my opinion, Denzil Doyle has chimed in.This morning I received this article in my in box.It seems The Ottawa Partnership (TOP) and the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) may soon build an:

announcing preliminary plans to construct an”innovation hub” in Ottawa that will act as a focus point for Ottawa’s business community, proponents have been busy getting back to advisors and scouring the horizon for potential partners.

Yup, thats what we need in Ottawa. Bricks and Mortar. Its not that our industry need R&D incentives, private company investment incentives or any of the other twenty things I could list that Canada and thus Ottawa needs. We need a really cool new building to “put Ottawa on the map”!With respect to Mr Murr who said:

Michael Murr, economic development manager at the city, called the hub a “realistic plan that will accelerate innovation and, more importantly, speed up commercialization.”

We have historical precedents for this NOT working out in Ottawa. There was the Ottawa Biotechnology Incubation Centre which was opened in the summer of 2001. It was supposed to:

help create more than 170 jobs and about 25 companies at both sites in the next five years, and will provide infrastructure and business services support to help participating companies commercialize research. The Ontario government is investing nearly $5.4 million in both sites through the Biotechnology Commercialization Centres Fund (BCCF), part of the government’s $20-billion SuperBuild initiative.

It’s now 6 years since the opening of the centre I can state that all of the promises were never born out. All of Ottawa (growing) Biotechnology startups are located in Hospitals or in Sub Leases. To my knowledge few if any came from the lovely building that was opened on 600 Peter Morand Drive. (Peter is an old family friend – he did wonders for the local Biotech Scene.) And a few still sit in some of the Agriculture Canada buildings, I believe, though this might not be the case. Perhaps most telling is that their website http://www.obic.ca/ is now defunct.The irony of this particular silliness comes after a Speech given by my companies CEO recently in Wales (where he resides.) The Welsh government looking to spur technology investment in the country (yes it is a country) decided to build some new buildings.Simon Gibson poignantly asked the question:

“But what came first the buildings and the infrastructure, or the companies?”If you take the Welsh model you build buildings first and hope you can then put companies in them.”My observations as a board member of the WDA was that you could always build a building, but it is harder to get people in.”The answer [the Kanata model] is that we started the companies first and then worried about the building of the buildings afterwards… so the emphasis has always been on innovation and invention.

Innovation and invention… help us with those. The buildings will take care of themselves.

The Author

Hi. My name is Matt Roberts, you can find me at www.mattroberts.com.

1 Comment

  1. SensoryMetrics: re-inventing the User eXperience » NewCo is very different than OldCo says

    […] may be under the weather today, but his thinking is clear. His “bull-eye” post on “innovation doesn’t need building” is in line with what we’ve been thinking about for a while. The call from TOP for a COOL […]

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