In May, bioeconomy leaders from across Canada gathered at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax for the Nova Scotia Bioeconomy Summit.
The organizing partners’ mission for the BioSummit was to place a spotlight on Nova Scotia’s growing bioeconomy while providing an in-person opportunity to engage, provide feedback, and strategize on future initiatives across the sector ecosystem. This made for a truly inspiring day.
Participants were first welcomed by Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray, President of Saint Mary’s University, followed by Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. The speakers highlighted the importance of the bioeconomy within Nova Scotia, both as an economic driver and as a means of providing low-carbon solutions to address climate change.
Throughout the day, attendees listened in on panel discussions focused on the commercialization path of bioeconomy companies, hearing perspectives from startups, large-scale companies, funding and service providers, and investors. The panel topics covered Talent Attraction and Retention, Raising Capital, and Customer and Market Development.
Following the three panel sessions, Mark Raymond, Chairperson for the Department of Economics at the Sobey School of Business, led attendees through a Reporting Forum that highlighted key themes and messages of the day’s discussions. Royden Trainor, Senior Executive Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, gave closing remarks and reiterated the importance the bioeconomy plays in Nova Scotia’s future.
Panel 1: Talent Attraction and Retention
Talent Attraction and Retention are prevalent subjects in all industries – and the bioeconomy is no exception. Attracting and retaining the right talent is imperative to success, as it builds a strong foundation for the health and success of any business. When recruiting new hires for your team, there are many ways to set a great foundation for growth.
During this panel, speakers touched on employee credentials and upskilling, immigration, and promotion of Nova Scotia’s quality of life to drive recruitment. Some suggestions put forward were to engage post-secondary institutions to adapt current courses, or develop new ones, that are specific to the needs within the bioeconomy and provide upskilling for desired candidates.
Many times, companies have to look outside of Canada to recruit skilled workers to join their team, but the immigration process is lengthy. Kath Perry from Smallfood discussed the company’s collaboration with ISANS to create a culturally inclusive work culture for newly immigrated employees. Promoting the quality of life and work-life balance that exists within Nova Scotia could truly drive retention for those moving from other countries and areas of Canada!
Panel 2: Raising Capital
Most startups follow a similar path to commercialization; incubation, acceleration, and venture capital investment. Jennifer Fuccillo, Investment Analyst at Innovacorp highlighted the importance of startups being introspective in sourcing programs that suit the company’s current stage of operations. Within the incubation and acceleration stage of commercialization comes talent acquisition and technology adoption to ensure the continued growth of the company.
When looking to raise capital, it can be very valuable to first source private equity and investors that are knowledgeable in the industry. Having this type of investment provides companies with a reliable foundation and history of investment when engaging with various levels of government. A key asset for any team currently raising capital is to source an experienced funds manager, said both Ian Lowe, CEO of Arduro, and Chris Nguyen, CEO of INTAG Systems.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) continues to support bioeconomy firms on their path to commercialization with programming such as the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. This program allows companies to scale and expand, adopt new technologies, improve productivity, create new products, and find new markets. Jeff Mullen, Director of Enterprise Development, communicated that funding received from ACOA is very flexible and has low-interest repayment terms.
Panel 3: Customer and Market Development
The final panel of the day featured Vik Pandit from Phycus Biotechnologies, Greg Wanger from Oberland Agriscience, and Ben MacCormick from ArdraBio, who are no strangers to Customer and Market Development. All three panellists echoed a similar challenge; the difficulty in market development before commercial-scale production is available.
One strategy for those looking to break into new markets is to engage with smaller customers whose need is more aligned with the company’s near-term production capacity. This allows companies to continue customer development as they scale production. Implementing this strategy may also prompt customers to take an investment role within the company, leading to rapid scalability.
As companies develop and improve their products, it is crucial to maintain a clear line of communication with customers to help qualify product performance. Spending time researching customer behaviours and current market trends can be the factor that sets a company apart from its competitors. Being able to promote products or services as solutions to a customer’s pain points can be what seals the deal for potential customers.
For those who were able to attend the BioSummit in person, the organizers greatly appreciate your attendance and participation in this year’s event. The day was filled with enthusiastic panels, networking, and conversations that will continue beyond the BioSummit.
The team at the Nova Scotia Innovation Hub would like to sincerely thank our partners in this event, we couldn’t have done it without you: The Verschuren Centre for Sustainability, Innovacorp, and Saint Mary’s University.
About the Organizers
The Nova Scotia Innovation Hub was established in 2015 to foster opportunities in the bioeconomy. The organization works to transform Nova Scotia’s renewable resources into opportunities for the province’s economy and people. It is focused on improving access to feedstock supply, fostering collaborations to capitalize on the growing demand for low-carbon products, and providing financial support to help companies achieve critical commercialization milestones.
The Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment was established to facilitate a transition to a green and circular economy through supporting innovative clean technology commercialization. The centre has an established team of experts in key areas in order to assist companies to advance IP and accelerate uptake in manufacturing and primary production industries.
Innovacorp finds, funds, and fosters innovative Nova Scotia start-ups that strive to change the world. Innovacorp is Nova Scotia’s early-stage venture capital organization. Target industries include information technology, clean technology, life sciences and ocean technology. Early-stage investment is at the core of their business model.
Saint Mary’s University is home to one of Canada’s leading business schools, a Science Faculty widely recognized for its cutting-edge research, a comprehensive and innovative Arts Faculty and a vibrant Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. Saint Mary’s is known for its impact on the economic, social, intellectual and entrepreneurial aspects of the region.