The following post lists my concluding observations on the previous blogs looking at different economic indicators and trends related to Ottawa’s high-tech sector and how the sector has performed relative to other key Canadian technology cluster centres. I also list some random impressions which are not directly the result of the analysis of performance indicators but are still reflective of my general impressions from reading the media articles and other literature.
The single most defining factor underlying the development of sustainable high-tech clusters is the ability of the local economy to support innovation and entrepreneurship which has also often described as the startup or entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is true irrespective of which cluster location is analyzed – Ottawa, Waterloo, Calgary, Montreal or San Jose / Silicon Valley. A strong ecosystem is highly collaborative and fosters innovation through the sharing of ideas and fostering partnerships and networks. The startup ecosystem can be comprised of several key elements including the presence of federal government research labs, strong university linkages to private industry, presence of major anchor technology firms, accessibility to venture capital, and availability of specialized professional and technical services. Such communities also tend to be very resilient whereby failures of individual companies like Nortel can spin-off new technology firms. Continue reading
In the previous post, I looked at employment in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services as an indicator of economic performance of Ottawa’s high-tech sector and its competitive position relative to other Canadian cities. In this post, I will look at the changing distribution of head office locations of Information Communications Technology (ICT) firms in Canada as another high-tech performance indicator.
My analysis is based on the widely recognized and referenced Branham300 which, according to their website, is the definitive listing of Canada’s top publicly traded and privately held ICT companies, as ranked by revenues. By the distribution of ICT head offices and changes in the distribution over time, one is able to assess the competitiveness of metropolitan areas as high-tech centres. Head offices of companies are often play a vital role in local economies because they typically employ highly skilled professionals and are major purchasers high-end professional services such as auditing, management consulting and financial services. More importantly, head offices are the decision making units within corporations determining how corporate resources are invested and allocated (Conference Board of Canada). Still, it is useful to keep in mind that the location of head offices may not always coincide to where the corporate researchers, thinkers and innovators are found. For example, Nortel’s head office was located in Brampton, Ontario but its largest R&D facility was in Ottawa. Similarly, RIM (Blackberry) had its main R&D facility in Ottawa while its head office was in Waterloo. Continue reading