Invest Ottawa survey provides peek at new economic development priorities

Facilitating business with the government, supporting firms to scale and more space at Bayview Yards may be on the docket
Tremblay

A survey sent to members of Ottawa’s business community offers a glimpse at some of the fresh directions Invest Ottawa is considering under its new president.

These include a hub for helping Ottawa startups do business with the federal government, another innovation hub at Bayview Yards and more support for midsize firms attempting to scale up.

President and CEO Mike Tremblay has talked sparingly about his priorities since taking the role last March, instead opting to first undertake a strategic review of the firm’s offerings and priorities.

The survey asks for input on the organization’s five-year strategic plan and is broken down into four sections of proposed initiatives, with respondents able to indicate how relevant, valuable, innovative and different from the mould the suggestions may be. None are yet set in stone, but offer insights into the potential directions for Invest Ottawa over the next half-decade.

Facilitating government and private sector connections

One of the proposals floated in the survey is a new “marketplace” wherein Invest Ottawa officials can help broker deals between Ottawa startups and the federal government or large private tech firms.

The National Public Service Digital Innovation Workshop, as the survey calls it, will leverage Ottawa’s location as the seat of the federal government, as well as its status as a tech hub, to facilitate matches between new services in town and the needs of the established players.

Few details were given about what this hub or marketplace would ultimately look like, or how it would operate, but it’s a priority that makes sense considering Mr. Tremblay’s past working with public sector clients at Microsoft Canada.

Industry observers have often championed the value of having the federal government as a first customer.

“From cradle to great”

The survey also indicated that midsize firms may receive more support in the future as they try to scale-up. Invest Ottawa suggested specific programs for high growth firms to maximize their ROI and potential economic impact on the city.

Ross Video CEO David Ross has been vocal about his own belief in supporting midsize firms.

Both startups and midsize firms may also receive more support in going global, with programs to provide marketing support and foster international connections.

Hub and spoke

One of the priorities Mr. Tremblay has been open about is his desire to take a regional approach to Invest Ottawa’s work. The survey mentions a “hub and spoke” regional model to connect disparate “innovation districts” across Ottawa and eastern Ontario.

This model, Invest Ottawa suggests, will provide a deeper talent pool to Ottawa firms and extend the agency’s services across the ecosystem. One example of this approach might see new technologies tested in pilot programs across communities in Ottawa, according to the survey.

Pursuant to these goals, Invest Ottawa would seek funding for a second innovation hub at Bayview Yards with increased incubator space.

Disruption

The fourth pillar of Invest Ottawa’s proposed priorities stands on disruptive technologies that could put Ottawa firms ahead of the game. The survey suggests better access to data would help startups “see around corners” at coming advancements, and that fostering relationships with post-secondary institutions can improve firms’ R&D efforts.

Prototyping and creative endeavours are also mentioned in the survey, priorities already exemplified in the recent launch of MadeMill at Bayview Yards.

Invest Ottawa would also, as it already does, track global investment and business trends to help guide startups towards appropriate investors and customers.