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Innovate, Don’t Imitate

In the context of economics, “innovation” has become a buzzword.  It is found in annual reports, funding applications, and political platforms. When a word is overused, it can become taken for granted, rendering its meaning muddled and vague. What is innovation and why is it so important?
There are two main elements to innovation. The first is engineering, which involves applying scientific and mathematical knowledge in a way that solves problems or generally benefits the public. The second is entrepreneurship, which involves the creation or advancement of a business as a result of the innovation. Products are not simply created without purpose, but rather to create wealth, investment, and/or opportunity.
That all sounds great, maybe even obvious, but making it so is a different story. In their annual report of best innovators, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada as #12 of 16 countries included in the study. Grades, which range from A+ to D-, are given based on research and development, public spending levels, and access to capital, among others. Canada received a grade of “C”, while our neighbour to the south, the United States, received a grade of “A”. Provincially, the picture is even grimmer. Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta received grades of “B”, “C”, “D”, and “D”, respectively, while the remaining provinces were given a “D-“. 
For a country such as Canada, rich with natural resources, perhaps we feel innovation is not necessary, but rather a bonus to how we generate our wealth.  Also, Canada boasts a less than sparkling record when it comes to innovation (see Avro Arrow, Nortel, Blackberry, Canadarm, CANDU reactor, etc.), which tends to create a negative mindset toward innovation. One of the speakers at a recent conference, Dr. Dhirendra Shukla of UNB, claimed that “We’re great at teaching entrepreneurship, but how about doing it?” Indeed, only some of the subjects can be taught. The rest largely depends on personality (creativity, boldness, bravery) and actually diving in. This focus on doing has been a positive change for UNB’s programming. From 1988—2006, only one start-up emerged from their graduates. More recently, from 2014—2018, that number skyrocketed to 99.
Another important aspect of innovation is support. Incubators have become common sights in cities around the world, and Canada is no exception. Although the simple “build it and they will come” attitude will not work in this case and budding entrepreneurs will appreciate modern building design and dirt-cheap rent, what they really require is mentorship, access to professional services, capital and investors, and help to get their product or service to the marketplace. Entrepreneurs tend to be rich in the technical sense yet poor in the business sense. Thus, at the end of their incubation time, having a business, rather than simply a product or feature is key.

Innovation can be funded to an extent, but its success is really predicated on three factors:
1. Sourcing
There isn’t much sense in building an incubator in a place without entrepreneurs. Does that mean post-secondary institutions are required nearby? That helps, but they aren’t vital components. People from other provinces or even other countries can be convinced to flock somewhere with the proper framework in place. Some examples of this include the Start-Up Visa program as well as Summerside’s Living Lab program.
2. Mindsets
Probably the most difficult of the three factors. Changing the way people think is difficult. Worse yet, no credit is given when a change in thinking is achieved. Rather, the people in question claim to have known it was brilliant all along. The average person does not understand what innovation means to Canada’s GDP and it is a difficult concept to grasp without a slam-dunk success story or having the social culture of a place like Silicon Valley.
3. Support
The creative process is never easy, whether it be a writer, an artisan, or an entrepreneur. Innovating is innately a lonely process. After all, you are thinking of something novel that only a few people (or even just one person) know about. It may also be frightening since success is anything but certain. Feeling supported goes a long way for anyone in this situation.
Given Canada’s modest success in the Conference Board’s 2018 rankings, there is much room for improvement. Willing entrepreneurs are required, of course, but so is a community willing to help and contribute to a sustained effort.

Cybersecure? Sure, I Guess”
A bank robber today does not look the same as he/she did 100 years ago. Digging tunnels, blowing vault doors, ski masks, and escape routes have been replaced by a computer, a keyboard, and technical know-how. The only thing left in common is the malicious attitude. How did we get from one to another?
The term “cybernetics” has an interesting history. Its origins are rooted in Greek, essentially meaning the oarsperson in a boat. Put simply, it means a person that is in control of a tool. In 1948, Norman Wiener of MIT defined it as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” These days, it loosely means “controlling a system using technology”. It seems the term has reverted to its roots, simply replacing the boat oar with a wireless, handheld device.
The keyword here is “control”. We want to be in control of the tools we own — which goes without saying. The advent of computers and the internet gave us an amazing tool, but it did not take long before people figured out how to use it for criminal purposes. In the early days, cybersecurity breaches included mischievous acts (see “Creeper” virus), but more damaging programs were on the way, like those that give backdoor access (Trojan horse), those that can spread over multiple computers (virus), and those that can replicate themselves without the need for human action (worm).
Today, we trust our most valuable information with computers, such as finance, health, grades, and so forth, and this trend has attracted cybercriminals. Unauthorized access to this data is damaging enough, but a more recent problem has been ransomware, where a program holds data hostage and demands a ransom to be paid before it is released. Not only does an organization lose money by not having its data, but they have to pay a ransom to boot — a ransom that is not budgeted for.
Recently, the University of Calgary paid a ransom to retrieve their information (registrations, grades, finance, etc.). In addition, the 149,000 attempts over time to infect their network 10 years ago has grown to 1.79 million attempts over a similar time period today. As we depend more and more on computers, this cyber onslaught shows no signs of slowing. Cybersecurity, in the sense of having appropriate software and trained staff, is of utmost importance today. One panellist ended a session by saying “You say you can’t afford cybersecurity? You can’t afford not to. There are many companies now that must be convinced of your cybersecurity measures before doing business with you and allowing you to be part of their supply chain. No one wants to end up in a situation like the University of Calgary.”

Growing Your Footprint
Finding a new location is an infrequent occurrence for most businesses. As a result, an internally led group is assigned to develop, direct and execute the site selection process. All too often the team lacks the depth of experience and/or expertise to ensure an optimal outcome, be it for expansion or relocation. Without the benefit of timely and accurate information, the process can become mired in risk, frustration and costly delays. 

Expanding one’s facility or finding an alternative site is often in reaction to an immediate need driven by opportunity. Demand drivers can include anything from identifying new market entry needs, increasing costs at current locations, regulatory changes, and mergers and acquisitions. These are just a few reasons why a company might seek a change in location.

There are many factors involved in how a new site is selected. Available real estate, taxes, economic incentives, the regulatory environment, infrastructure, demographics and suitability of potential buildings and utilities are all major considerations. All too often many important decisions and factors can lead to frustration and suboptimal decision making, jeopardizing the opportunity to find the best site to service you’re customer base. Many site selection factors are often overlooked and end up jeopardizing the site search process, with some of the more common challenges being;
  1. Looking Inside: The company’s existing facility and its ability to absorb the expansion. Is there enough land, zoning, and an ability to execute an expansion without significant disruption to business operations? 
  1. Engaging Stakeholders Early: Many companies fail to effectively engage internal stakeholders from the outset and gather the necessary intelligence and input from all functional divisions. More often than not, expansions and relocations are managed by one key decision-maker or small group of decision-makers and fail to account for the overall company.
  2. Assessing the future needs of the workforce: Site selection often does not take into account key vulnerabilities that expansion or relocation will have on the existing and future workforce. Not taking into account how a firm is able to ramp up its labour force needs can cause significant strain to execute a successful expansion. Consultation and engagement with the HR division are key.
  3. The Final Deal: Often, the final decision on site selection is based around the attractiveness of incentives or real estate deals as the driving force of the decision. The right site and/or building is, of course, necessary, along with the availability of appropriate utilities and infrastructure. However, many other factors play a significant role including the availability of services, a cluster of businesses co-located around the facility, and support services to serve both the business and workforce are often overlooked. These factors may end up exerting greater influence over future business success than the negotiating opportunity for a one-time property purchase.
These are just some of the common challenges companies must face as they plow through the site selection process. Working with your local Economic Development Office can often provide inherent value in helping make the right and most informed decision for your expansion or relocation needs providing everything from demographics, real estate trends, support programs and labour support. 

To learn how Summerside Economic Development can assist in your future needs, visit us today at or contact us today Our team has in-depth knowledge and a vast resource of information to meet the challenges of your next expansion.
Look Who’s Hiring


Business Account Manager Intern
Job Location:
Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Posted on 08/15/2018
What is the opportunity?
As our Business Account Manager, you will have the opportunity to establish and grow long-term relationships with new and existing small business clients. Your strong passion for small businesses, as well as your entrepreneurial spirit and aptitude, allows you to support your clients through holistic advice conversations regarding their business and personal needs. Applying your mindset for external marketing and client acquisition, you will develop new business, deepen client relationships, and help all small business clients succeed. By partnering with other RBC specialists across the organization, you will contribute to helping RBC achieve a dominant market position.
To learn more about this opportunity or apply, visit:
Client Advisor — 30 hours/week
Job Location:
Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Posted on 09/17/2018
What is the opportunity?
As an RBC Ambassador inside our branches, you will put clients first and find solutions to their individual needs. You will champion the RBC brand and drive business by supporting new client acquisition and deepening existing relationships. If you have the self-motivation to deliver exceptional customer service and thrive in a target based performance environment, you can build a great career with us as a future Account Manager/Banking Advisor.
To learn more about this opportunity or apply, visit:

If interested in learning more about investment opportunities, economic development support or opportunities for growth, please call our Economic Development Professionals.
We would love to chat.

Alternatively, you can email us at, it could be 
the most profitable email you have ever sent.

Michael Thususka
Director of Economic Development City of Summerside
275 Fitzroy Street, Summerside PE C1N 1H9
M: 902.432.0103, E:

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