Not Being #1 Is Not That Bad: Ottawa’s Technology Ecosystem, Toronto-Waterloo, and Connectedness

The Ottawa Citizen recently published a special series of articles looking at the strengths and weaknesses of Ottawa’s technology sector dubbed The IT Factor. One theme that appears to emerge is that while the Ottawa’s technology sector has had several success stories, there is a general lack of recognition and appreciation of its entrepreneurial ecosystem, nationally and globally. One of the articles stated that this is one of the biggest barriers the city faces when trying to compete against other Canadian ecosystems to get onto the world stage. Autonomous or self-drive vehicle R&D has been identified as a key sector which has strong potential for leading Ottawa’s technology sector in the future and emergence as a Centre of Excellence in this next wave of technological change. As stated in the IT Factor series, Ottawa’s tech sector has long struggled to get out from under the shadow of the public service as well as its tech neighbours, Montreal and Toronto. However, neither of those two cities have a pronounced reputation for autonomous-vehicle innovation, which means Ottawa could readily take up the cause. Continue reading

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Reframing Economic Clusters in Ottawa: Thinking Outside the High Tech Box

The concepts of economic clusters and entrepreneurial ecosystems continue to have a strong presence in today’s strategic thinking. For example, the federal government recently announced a short list of proposed “innovation superclusters” as part of its $950 million initiative. Invest Ottawa promotes the growth of six high growth knowledge-based industries – life sciences, software, digital media, communications technology, clean technologies and, aerospace, defence and security. As illustrated by Invest Ottawa’s six high growth sectors, cluster strategies typically focus on advanced technology industries. The region is now being touted as being Canada’s Autonomous Vehicle innovation cluster. Continue reading

What does really matter when it comes to the City of Ottawa’s Economic Development Strategy?

The City of Ottawa’s Economic Strategy 2015 Update known as Partnerships for Innovation has its vision to be a leader in innovation for economic prosperity. This vision statement is based on the following assessment:

Today’s economy is global, competitive, and rapidly evolving through technology and innovation. To excel and outperform, municipalities are proactively investing in economic development initiatives that encourage investment attraction and business expansion and retention, foster entrepreneurship and innovation, strengthen tourism, and provide the necessary tools and research to make informed decisions.

The City’s Economic Strategy is also derived from the argument that Ottawa’s dependency on the federal government has in fact discouraged new investment on the part of private industry and indeed, has created a situation where the local economy is in imminent peril because of its downsizing and spending cuts.

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Taking Performance Rankings For Another Spin – This Time It’s fDi’s City of the Future

Mayor Watson seemed to be impressed when the prestigious fDi Magazine selected Ottawa as the most “Business Friendly” mid-sized city in the Western Hemisphere. Invest Ottawa was also excited about the news and sent its Vice-President along with Councillor Stephen Blais to Anchorage Alaska to pick up the award at the International Economic Development ceremony.

Not only was it the most Business Friendly mid-sized city, Ottawa was also beat out by only Raleigh, North Carolina and Oakland, California as the overall top mid-sized “City of the Future”. Brampton was the only other Canadian city making the overall top 10 in the mid-size category coming in at number 9. Continue reading

Ottawa and Economic Diversification: Why Do Community Leaders Continue To Deny That We Are The Nation’s Capital?

Ever since the Queen Victoria’s selection of Ottawa as the Capital of the United Province of Canada, economic diversification has appeared as a rallying cry on the part of local public and business representatives. In 1906, Mayor Ellis laid out the challenge that “the time has come when Ottawa must decide whether it is for all time to be simply the seat of Government and a Departmental City, or whether it not become also an industrial centre” with its excellent “rail facilities and unrivalled water power” (City of Ottawa Council Minutes 1906). Continue reading

How Global Is Ottawa?

Globalization and its concomitant concepts of global cities, control-and-command centres, and city mega-regions are much in vogue these days. Globalization has been identified as being the cause (blame?) for many of the challenges faced by larger Canadian cities ranging from governance (e.g. amalgamation) to economic competitiveness to investment in municipal infrastructure. The rationale commonly presented by municipal representatives is that, in the face of powerful social, political and economic globalization forces, metropolitan cities throughout Canada must strengthen their competitiveness in the world economy in order to maintain and sustain local prosperity and high quality of life. Continue reading

The Federal Government and Ottawa’s Economy: The Sky is not Falling

At the February 2012 official opening of Invest Ottawa (the City’s economic development / investment attraction agency),  Mayor Jim Watson stated,

“One of my priorities . . . was to establish Invest Ottawa to help attract more investment and foster greater economic growth in our nation’s capital. . . Recent headlines surrounding public service job losses underscore the need to diversify our local economy, and Invest Ottawa is going to help us do just that. Invest Ottawa is a clear commitment to inspire more entrepreneurs to build our prosperity to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”  (Invest Ottawa opening Mayor Watson))

Later in the year, the Mayor further elaborated in his 2012 State of the Economy address on the challenges facing the City resulting from the federal government’s austerity measures. He stated that “in this new federal government dynamic, we have the most to lose but we also have the most to gain”. To prevent Ottawa from becoming “a shadow of its former self”, the Mayor added that “we can no longer depend on the federal government to shelter us from [economic] storms or drive our economy … instead, we will construct a new economic engine … an engine that is more diverse – that runs on more than just one industry” (2012 State of the Economy link). This doom and gloom shows up even the City’s Economic Development Strategy stating that the local economy is in peril as a result to the federal government’s budget cutbacks.  Continue reading