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Innovation – what does this actually mean for our community?

Last month’s article was titled “Sidney has become the Industry Innovation Capital for Vancouver Island”. This topic generated numerous conversations amongst my network, specifically questioning how to define & explain innovation based principles within a community context. Key to understanding the “Innovation Definition” is knowing that it doesn’t simply apply to technology based applications & tools. Recently there has been considerable regional economic development activity involving the Innovation Brand with the South Island Prosperity Project applying for Federal Smart Communities funding opportunities and VIATEC announcing participation within the newly formed Cascadia Venture Acceleration Network, a Partnership to fuel Innovation.

The dictionary definition of Innovation is “something new or different introduced and/or the introduction of new things or methods”. We have generally attributed innovation activity only to technology based industry but clearly that’s too narrow a focus. Innovation actually arises from applying new thinking processes, not necessarily new technology, i.e., new technology is a by-product of innovative thinking, not the other way around.

Our community requires innovative thinking towards regional municipal governance. Four years ago our regional electorate prompted politicians to think, and more importantly, to do something about how we govern ourselves municipally. This requires innovative thinking…courageous thoughts and action that makes our community more efficient, productive and livable.

Our community requires innovative thinking towards regional transportation solutions. We’re clearly bogged down in lengthy traffic related delays…people in our region struggle and waste considerable time and energy to get from one area to the other. Solutions to these massive & expensive transportation challenges requires innovative thinking…courageous thoughts and action that makes our community more efficient, productive and livable.

Our community requires innovative thinking towards industry based labour market issues. The lack of a sizeable labour market pool is stunting regional economic development. Numerous labour market related issues including the lack of affordable workforce housing, replacing the baby-boom working generation and enhancing technology based industry training are all critical labour market issues facing our business community today. Solutions will require innovative thinking…courageous thoughts and action that makes our community more efficient, productive and livable.

As our provincial government ponders the creation of a Provincial Innovation Council and Innovation Chair, we must ensure that we convey the message that innovation based thinking is a regional and community based endeavour and not the exclusive domain of technology based industry applications. We can think, live and grow together better if we actively adopt this kind of comprehensive and regional based innovative thinking.