As its new CEO settles into his new role, Invest Ottawa released a request for proposals on Monday seeking help crafting its five-year strategic plan for growing the National Capital Region’s companies. The plan must balance the needs of stakeholders, anticipate the region’s growth as well as any impending shifts in the global economy.
President and CEO Michael Tremblay knows that’s no easy task, and so he’s taking the community approach.
“It shouldn’t just be a Mike Tremblay plan. It needs to be a regional plan, which includes post-secondary institutions, the city, and in some respects the province and the federal government as well,” he told Techopia Live this week.
The goal, Tremblay says, is not just to innovate, neither is it solely to commercialize that innovation, as local executives have recently posited. Referencing The Innovator’s Dilemma, he says the continued commercialization of innovation – the ability to adapt to and anticipate changes in the market, to “look around the corner” – will be what builds and sustains companies and cities.
Technologies such as blockchain and autonomous vehicles are two such examples where he sees the potential for Ottawa to lead the pack. His role as head of Invest Ottawa, he says, is to position the organization to help companies peek around those corners.
“Everybody can compete. We just have to be smart about what we’re competing on,” he says.
Tremblay points to Ford’s recent investment in Ottawa as an example of QNX’s efforts to seize emerging opportunity in autonomous vehicles software.
“They found the best damn platform to put in their cars they could point to. And that was QNX. And that’s in Ottawa.”
Comparing Ottawa’s modern tech scene to the 1990s telecom boom, Tremblay notes the difference today is a diversified base of companies across many sectors. He says he takes confidence in the fact that the city isn’t hitching its wagon to a Nortel-like beast, but is instead betting on horses including software-as-a-service, fintech and autonomous vehicles.
“We have the same buzz, but we have diversity,” he says.
Tremblay spoke before Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin at an event last week where the Quebec mayor extolled the benefits of collaboration between the neighbouring cities. In his discussions with Techopia Live, Tremblay echoed those sentiments, saying that the two municipalities share a talent pool, and therefore, an economy.
“It’d be crazy to think there’s some kind of boundary between where people live and they work,” he says.
Tremblay went on to praise Fred Boulanger, CEO of software firm Macadamian. He pointed to Boulanger as an example of a prominent businessperson working on both sides of the river, and one who has embraced the regional approach that the Invest Ottawa leader hopes to imbue in the organization.
“I see him as a real adviser to me because he’s an enlightened leader and someone who really helps our region to grow.”
Growth was high in the mind of Tremblay as he spoke of developing plans to expand the Innovation Centre campus, suggesting a tower may eventually be in the works. In his mind, expanding the capacity of the centre and his organization is the key to building the small companies and startups it is mandated to assist.
“Make no mistake about it, we are in a growth period right now,” he says. “It’s around building that attitude and culture of growth.”