Turn the clock forward in New Brunswick

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Just as surely as light follows darkness, spring follows winter with the eternal promise of warmer, sweeter days ahead. Time marches forward tonight, as we gladly sacrifice one hour of sleep for an extra one of sunshine.

Would that everything in New Brunswick operated according to such progressive principles. Would our budgets suddenly balance? Would our young people instantly find rewarding and remunerative careers? Would our old people never again worry from the threat of imminent penury? Could we snap our fingers and make it all better?

Of course, we tend to talk ourselves into the states of mind we variously inhabit over the course of many generations. If we choose to see ourselves as feckless losers, chances are we’ll find a way to fulfill that particular prophesy. Happily, the reverse is also true.

Nowhere does this seem more eminently clear than in New Brunswick’s innovation sector. Commenting about bad economic news tends to be my stock in trade. But every so often, even I like to stray from my customary song sheet and warble about some of the good things this province is doing.

Things like the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation where you will rarely see a grim face or a downcast glance. This organization describes itself as “an independent, not-for-profit corporation that invests in new growth-oriented companies and applied research activities. With over $62 million invested, plus $348 million leveraged from other sources, NBIF has helped to create over 86 companies and fund 400 applied research projects since its inception in 2003. All of NBIF’s investment returns go back into the Foundation to be re-invested in other new startup companies and research initiatives.”

Its target industries comprise information and communications technology, energy and the environment, biosciences, aerospace and defence, biosciences, value-added food, value-added wood, and education and training. This institutional creature appears to have gotten the memo: If we want to build an innovative society, then we must. . .well, innovate.

A survey of 1,200 CEOs from around the world, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers not long ago, found that innovation “now outstrips all other means of expansion, including moving into new markets, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures and other alliances. In all, 78 per cent of CEOs surveyed believe innovation will generate ‘significant’ new revenue and cost reduction opportunities. . .But it is highest for those where technology is changing customer expectations. In both the pharmaceutical and entertainment and media sectors, for example, more than 40 per cent of CEOs believe their greatest opportunities for growth come from spawning new products and services.”

That’s certainly the case for many of the NBIF’s beneficiaries. One example serves the point. According to the organization, “Fredericton startup company Eigen Innovations got an international boost (in December), placing third in the Cisco Systems’ Global Innovation Grand Challenge at the Internet Of Things World Forum in Dubai. Eigen was the only Canadian company to make it to the final six, and as the third place winner (received) a $25,000 cash prize plus business opportunities with the network solutions giant.”

Of course, marks of innovation need not garner international recognition to be relevant to New Brunswick’s broader economy. Those businesses (and people) who innovate quietly, regularly and reliably in this province hold the keys to the economy’s future. They are worth celebrating and emulating, especially during the long winters of our fiscal and social discontent.

Now, as light follows darkness and spring follows winter with the eternal promise of warmer, sweeter days ahead, they are steadily, progressively turning all our clocks forward.

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