Op-ed / Innovating for the future

FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following op-ed was issued today by Premier Brian Gallant:

Innovation is important to New Brunswick’s future. It is important for our economy and for the quality of life of New Brunswickers.

This is why New Brunswick just finished celebrating the second annual Innovation Week.

Innovation is key for our province in preparing for emerging industries such as cybersecurity. New Brunswick companies and research institutions have played a key role in the development of cybersecurity technologies. With companies such as IBM, Bulletproof Solutions and Sentrant, New Brunswick is leading the way in cybersecurity.

It is also key for New Brunswick businesses to compete in traditional industries. The way Resson Aerospace is making agriculture more competitive is a great example of this. They are using high-technology drones and advanced bioinformatics to do what farmers have traditionally done on foot. Instead of walking their field to gather information, farmers can now use information gathered by drones and other advanced sensor platforms developed by the company to assess crop status and health. The technology enables farmers to optimize operations, improve efficiency, boost yields, and maximize profitability.

Innovation is important for businesses of all sizes. That is why it is great to see research and development voucher programs like the ones recently announced with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. The foundation’s Innovation Voucher Fund invested $1.3 million to help fund research and development activities across the province. The fund aims to accelerate innovation within small and medium-sized businesses using the talent, capacity and facilities of New Brunswick’s research organizations. The goal is to apply innovation in a way that improves the profitability and competitiveness of those businesses.

New Brunswick startups are innovative in the way they are making a difference to our quality of life. Ongozah, an online social impact engine, helps to bring together individuals, non-profits, businesses and the government to collectively address some of the biggest challenges of our time. Wear Your Label is a clothing company whose product line was created with the goal of creating conversations around mental health and ultimately ending the stigma attached. In October 2015, they were selected as one of six startups to participate in an 18-month kick-start program with the Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation.

Investing in research specifically in the health-care sector will help New Brunswickers live longer and healthier lives. In partnership with the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation and other research partners, New Brunswick is investing $8 million to help fund adapted, improved and more responsive research activities in youth mental health in the province. To help reduce barriers to the development of personalized medicine in oncology, a joint investment of $4 million was committed to by Merck, the Cancer Research Society and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation for the Exactis Innovation Personalize My Treatment initiative.

Your government is trying to enable New Brunswickers to do what they do best – innovate with their entrepreneurial spirt. We are committed to fostering an environment where innovation can flourish to not only create economic opportunities but to benefit the entire province. To do so, a minister responsible for innovation was created and I took on the portfolio myself.

Adopting innovative practices in government is one of the ways we can achieve greater efficiencies in service delivery. Recently, the province of New Brunswick’s open data policy was launched. This policy will foster new start-up businesses, increase transparency and enable New Brunswickers to help solve some of the challenges our province is facing.

The government has partnered with the province’s technology sector to create nb+. This partnership is an important component of achieving our goal of New Brunswick becoming the smart province.

Investing in innovation will help move our province forward. The creation of the Education and New Economy Fund will help ensure strategic investments in projects to provide for the best education system and for workforce skills development while helping industries innovate and businesses increase productivity. The fund will see nearly $1 billion invested over three years.

Education is the best investment we can make to ensure that we have economic growth in the long term and it also happens to be the best social equalizer.

Through the Tuition Access Bursary, university and college tuition will be free for low-income and many middle-class New Brunswick families. Making post-secondary education more accessible and affordable will help us develop a skilled workforce for our businesses while strengthening the social fabric of our province.

In partnership with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, 188 students have been awarded New Brunswick Graduate Scholarships. The students received a total of $1.2 million from the foundation, an additional $686,000 from their host institutions and $1.7 million from national granting agencies. In addition, $945,000 has been leveraged to hire 113 student research assistants, and $520,000 is being invested in startup grants to attract seven new professors who have joined the faculty at the University of New Brunswick, Université de Moncton and the Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick in Grand Falls.

More opportunities for our youth to gain skills and develop their potential as innovators will lead to permanent employment here at home. The Youth Employment Fund and the expansion of the SEED program will help our youth gain the on-the-job work experience they need.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority recently found that the province has the best Internet access in the country. Before we had smart phones, iPads, text messaging and the Internet, we were all quite satisfied to use our regular telephone, send a fax or use regular mail. Today, we cannot imagine life without the technology that has transformed our everyday lives and revolutionized our world. Access to high-speed Internet and providing reliable cell coverage are helping to make New Brunswick a leader in connectivity. Your government has been committed to improving connectivity in New Brunswick. It is exciting to see that by working with private-sector partners, connectivity in the province has improved to the point where we are now the national leaders.

There is so much innovation happening in New Brunswick, it is inspiring. Two of the largest exits in the last five years in Canada’s technology sector were right here in New Brunswick with Radian 6 and Q1 Labs. Large-scale technology and innovation firms such as Salesforce, BMM Testlabs, Accreon, CGI and Siemens all have operations here in our province. New Brunswick businesses such as Sylvar Technologies, BioMatcan, MyCoDev Group and LuminUltra are making global strides in biotechnology.

There is already so much innovation happening in New Brunswick. Imagine what we can do by continuing to work together. There is no doubt that through continuous collaboration, we will indeed make New Brunswick the smart province.