BIA study looks at gaps in regional innovation hotspot - pt. 1

The Kanata North BIA commissioned Doyletech Corporation to perform a market gap analysis study alongside its economic impact study to assess what’s still missing in the local tech hub. TECHOPIA sat down with BIA executive director Jenna Sudds to ask about the biggest gaps that emerged from that research. Here is an edited transcript of that interview.

 

TECHOPIA: What was the intent of the gap analysis study?

KNBIA: “The market gap analysis was really intended to give us a clear picture of where there were opportunities within the various subsectors. And then within each of those subsectors, they analyzed what the capacities and strengths were. We also did almost 40 interviews with various executives across Kanata North. It wasn’t strictly that we were looking at industry or private industry gaps; we also looked at softer things like transportation, retail, services, all of these. It was kind of the whole picture. We ended up breaking it down into private sector gaps and social infrastructure gaps. It made sense that they were very distinct, some very different issues. Some you expect the public sector to fill the need, like when you’re talking about roadways or public transportation.”

TECHOPIA: What were the main areas where they saw room for growth?

KNBIA: “One issue that came up again and again was skill set: a lack of C++ coders, for example; a need for more cloud-service providers locally; software tools locally … Although we have L-Spark, and it’s growing, historically it has felt like we’ve missed out and we’ve needed more incubator and accelerator activity. High tech-oriented retail stores, there’s nothing like that here. Those were the top ones that came out. And then there’s social infrastructure gaps: roadways, LRT, airport access; a need for more restaurants; a variety of housing. An executive club was one of the things that came up in more than a few interviews. The list goes on and on.”

TECHOPIA: Were there any particular things that surprised you in the analysis?

KNBIA: “The numbers around size of firms. I think people often think of Kanata as the land of large multinationals, but the data showed us that I think 75 per cent was actually 50 employees or less. So it’s really showing you the amount of activity happening here. It’s not just the big guys.”

TECHOPIA: How does this new information change your strategies?

KNBIA: “I do a lot of meetings one-on-one with business, and one of the questions of course that I’m delving into with them is ‘What are the issues they’re facing?’ And so now when you put in perspective that 75 per cent of these companies are fewer than 50 employees, when you hear an issue once, perhaps it’s unique to that company. But you hear it three times, four times, you keep hearing it, it’s easier to equate that to a larger proportion of your businesses. It gives us a bit more perspective as far as commonalities.”

TECHOPIA: When it comes to infrastructure concerns, what’s the approach to solving those problems?

KNBIA: “That’s an interesting point. For example, when it comes to LRT, obviously all parts of the city would be better off with LRT in place. Cognizant of the fact that this is provincial and federal money that is hopefully funding the current plans, the reality is that lobbying efforts need to be directed particularly to our MP. We’re fortunate in that we do have good relationships with both our MP (Karen McCrimmon) and our MPP (Jack MacLaren), and they’re certainly discussions that we keep pursuing. With the federal budget coming up, now is the time to be really vocal in these regards.”

TECHOPIA: What are the big challenges going to be for Kanata in the next few years?

KNBIA: “We need to really ensure the infrastructure is in place, and ensure that this is a place that is easy to get to, and that people are attracted to working and living here. I think one of the things that we have to offer is that work-life balance, having such a great community. If we aren’t able to improve our infrastructure and services in pace with the growth of employment, that’s certainly a concern for us moving forward and would make it a less attractive place to do business.”