Leveraging the halifax innovation district the chronicle herald

“In 2017, the Province of Nova Scotia committed to advance innovation-drive entrepreneurship. The Halifax Partnership will develop the Halifax Innovation District while NSCC focuses on rural entrepreneurship and the Cape Breton Partnership develops increased innovation in Cape Breton,” says Miriam Zitner, Vice President, Halifax Innovation District for the Halifax Partnership.

A density of technology and innovation-driven companies have already, organically, coalesced within a relatively small area in Halifax and Dartmouth, according to Zitner. The area consists of a mixture of housing, office and retail spaces, includes more than 100 tech-based companies, and is home to academic institutions, accelerators and incubators, new and established businesses, risk capital, and government.

Some of these trailblazers include Dalhousie’s ideaHUB, Volta, which is moving from 20,000 to 60,000 square feet of wide open and available space for innovators, startups and even established companies looking to evolve their product offerings. In Dartmouth, Innovacorp’s Technology Innovation Centre is already home to ground-breaking companies such as Tesla and MetaMaterial Technologies. The Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) is opening and Saint Mary’s University recently announced the development of its Entrepreneurship, Development and Innovation (EDI) Hub. Additionally the Province’s Sandboxes bring together students from all academic institutions, including NSCAD and the Atlantic School of Theology, with mentors and advisors to develop business and social enterprise ideas. And Innovacorp, NSBI, ACOA are integral.

Ultimately, says Zitner, the goal of the Innovation District is to increase employment opportunities in Halifax by commercializing R&D, convening organizations with like-minded interests to increase economies of scale and reduce duplication of effort, and communicating locally, nationally, and internationally about the region’s successes and assets to attract and retain businesses, talent, and capital.

Studies from the Brookings Institute show that successful innovation districts all have three categories of assets: economic assets, physical assets, and networking assets, and when you have a collision of all three types of assets, combined with a supportive, risk-taking culture that is continually nurtured, innovation is amplified.

The COVE is a prime example. COVE uses one of the city’s most valuable assets, the ocean, to create a place where innovative products and services will be developed and brought to market with the help of a working facility for ocean enterprises, including access to water and testing facilities.

“What is happening is that we are taking notice of and being concerted about our assets. Nova Scotia has one of the highest concentrations of post-secondary institutions in Canada, which gives us access to a huge pool of skilled talent. We are a short plane ride away from many global hubs and we live in a location with an enviable lifestyle. On top of that, the cost to business here is comparatively low. So we have this collision of opportunities, assets, and drive happening in the city right now,” says Zitner.

And it is the Partnership’s job to help this blossoming ecosystem of technology and innovation continue to expand and flourish. To do this, Zitner says entrepreneurial organizations must continue to focus on their respective agendas while she develops, “a depth of understanding about what everyone is doing within the entrepreneurial ecosystem so we can connect people with like-minded agendas to accelerate success, build out our R&D opportunities, and communicate broadly about our assets and wins.”