A new report released by Memorial Universitys Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development suggests that a variety of factors, including regional governance and creative capacity, have the potential to impact innovation and regional development success.
A Commitment to Place: The Social Foundations of Innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador explores the nature of interaction between businesses, skilled and creative workers, governments and NGOs in four urban NL regions, and seeks to determine the social dynamics and relationships that drive development.
The report is part of a national project, led by Dr. David Wolfe at the Munk Centre, University of Toronto, and highlights how innovation, talent attraction and retention and governance are linked in providing the foundations for economic competitiveness.
Dr. Rob Greenwood, director of the Harris Centre, led a team of faculty, students and community and government collaborators in research on the St. Johns, Clarenville, Corner Brook and Labrador West regions.
All too often research on policy and practices for economic development focuses on the activities of individual firms, their markets, technology and access to capital, without acknowledging the social factors that create the conditions for economic success, said Dr. Greenwood. This research drew on a national research initiative that will have significant policy impacts across Canada.
The St. Johns research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council under the national project. The Harris Centre was able to access additional support from the Provincial Industrial Research and Innovation Fund and the Office of the Vice-President (Research) at Memorial, allowing the research to extend to the three smaller urban regions.
Advisory committees were established and three years of research, analysis, consultation and debate took place across Newfoundland and Labrador. To date, over 30 presentations have been delivered throughout the province on the findings from this research.
This project is a great example of engaged scholarship, said Dr. Greenwood. The partners outside the university worked closely with the research team throughout the research process. This not only improved the quality of the findings, but the partners have already started acting on them, even before the official release of the report.
Paul Tilley is a business instructor at the College of the North Atlantics Clarenville Campus, and was a member of the local committee for the Clarenville region portion of the project. At the time, he was also a member of the Town Council. Ive always had an interest in economic development, so it intrigued me on both a professional and volunteer level, he said.
After the report was completed, Mr. Tilley shared the results with the students of CNA Clarenville. One of the findings in particular really resonated with the group: they all agreed that stronger communications networks in the town could help support business and social development in the region.
We kind of jumped on it, said Sherry Smith, president of SIFE Clarenville. I tend to see that communication is a challenge here in town. The resulting project was All White Here (available for viewing at http://paultilley.wikispaces.com/Videos
), a multimedia communications campaign designed to highlight winter-tourism-related businesses in the area. The initiative was so successful in attracting attention to the region that now businesses are approaching the students about becoming involved.
I think what weve shown is that the barriers that exist in communities, and that were identified in the report, can be broken down, concluded Mr. Tilley. In this case, all it took was a group of people with an interest in community development and some readily available technology.