Manitoba accelerating pace of innovation

Last week, two of us from Cybera attended Manitoba'€™s first-ever Driving Innovation conference, which focused on inspiring small-to-medium-sized businesses with new technologies. The idea behind the two-day event was to get Manitoba businesses and entrepreneurs more familiar with the new world of digital efficiency and social media tools to grow and enhance business productivity. We were there to help promote DAIR — the CANARIE-funded initiative that is providing free cloud computing resources to Canadian businesses.

Keynote speaker Doug Hall, best selling author of four books on sales, marketing, creativity and innovation, energetically engaged the audience to be '€œmeaningfully unique'€ in their work. Hall is the founder of Innovation Engineering, a system that teaches individuals and companies to increase speed, decrease risk and instill a mindset of never-ending innovation. He pressed the attendees to focus on a business strategy that is unique and innovative. Hall said innovation engineering is the foundation of his business, Eureka! Ranch. The company focuses on helping multi-national companies such as Nike, Walt Disney, Pepsi, Hewlett Packard, and American Express increase their innovation speed and decrease risk.

The event also featured a presentation from Gayemarie Brown, the national innovation leader for Deloitte Canada. Brown described the difficulties entrepreneurs face starting out, and brought up her personal career experiences of facing '€œnon-believers'€ (such as  those who doubted that '€œinnovation leader'€ was a real job). Focusing on the startup success story of Airbnb (and how three guys went from renting mattresses to operating a $10 billion company),  

Brown emphasized the company'€™s use of social media, content management, and professional images and videos as keys to their success.

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Minister Kevin Chief makes the funding announcement at Driving Innovation 2015

(picture from Innovate Manitoba)

At the start of the Driving Innovation conference, the government of Manitoba announced an extension to Innovate Manitoba'€™s funding, with a three-year commitment to provide $300,000 annually.

'€œInnovation is vital to Manitoba'€™s economy, and innovative ideas and companies start, grow and thrive in communities that provide a solid system of support,'€ said Minister Kevin Chief.

Although Manitoba is, like Alberta, geographically challenged (being situated away the big cities that represent the epicenters of the startup universe and digital economy), they are nonetheless accelerating the pace of innovation.

With the recent drop of oil prices, oil rich provinces are expected to take a financial hit due to lower revenues from the sector, meaning it could be a great time for Manitoba'€™s economy. The province'€™s industry is dominated by manufacturing and agriculture, with aerospace manufacturing, repair and overhaul growing rapidly. The 2011 industry revenues for aerospace in Manitoba exceeded $1.6 billion, and it currently employs an estimated 5,300 people.

Manitoba has often lagged behind the larger province'€™s in terms of economic output. With the spark of innovation, that might just change.