This week, Memorial Universitys Harris Centre was in Corner Brook sharing the findings of a major provincial research project with the Rotary Club.
Key findings of the Social Foundations of Innovation Project, led by Dr. Rob Greenwood, director of the Harris Centre, pointed to various areas of strength in the Corner Brook region, as well as several areas for improvement.
According to Dr. Greenwood, 32 interviews were conducted in the Corner Brook region with businesses, all three orders of government, community-based organizations and individual skilled workers. These were compared with interviews in the St. Johns, Clarenville and Labrador West regions, as well as to research in 14 city regions across Canada.
Dr. Greenwood noted that findings from the Corner Brook interviews included positive indications of collaboration between the federal, provincial and municipal governments. Respondents also commented on the positive quality of life in Corner Brook, with access to outdoor recreation, a lack of crime and the benefits of a small city with some of the amenities of a larger centre.
There were several challenges to innovation reported by skilled workers who lacked opportunities outside their current employment and by current business owners who were approaching retirement who were not willing to take the risks required to introduce new technologies or enter new markets.
The interviews also indicated a further challenge related to governance in the region: a lack of trust amongst community-based organizations. Many reported conflicting mandates and a tendency for too many organizations to want to be involved in every initiative, rather than clarifying roles and trusting others to take the lead on emerging opportunities.
Dr. Greenwood noted that the research process involved advisory committees in each of the locations in the province and already there were signs that stakeholders were taking actions to respond to the findings.
In Corner Brook, the municipality is collaborating with the Provincial Rural Secretariat (a partner in the research project) and with researchers at the Grenfell Campus at Memorial to explore new approaches to building networks, fostering trust and enhancing innovation. The Harris Centre is currently finalizing funding from its Applied Research Fund that will support this project.
A final report on the Newfoundland and Labrador research will be released by the Harris Centre by the end of June.