Business Beat: Using a Regional Innovation Network to Start, Grow and Innovate
Being new to the role as the APEX Regional Innovation Network Coordinator, a coworker asked for my bio. He wanted to introduce me and show how my experience and qualifications relate to helping tech and knowledge-based companies. While I appreciate the kind sentiment, I have been involved with the RIN for almost 10 years now and it has never been about one person. It has always been about how the network can help companies start, grow, and innovate.
There are currently eight RINs across the province. These entrepreneur-centric, community-based networks exist to accelerate companies with novel products and services. They also strive to create and enhance local innovation ecosystems. As well, RINs are connected to each other with the ability to share services for entrepreneurs.
Our local RIN is called APEX (www.apexalberta.ca) and it is a partnership between Alberta Innovates, Community Futures Entre-Corp, and Medicine Hat College. These core partners also work with other agencies, from Chambers to industry associations, when it can help foster innovation for the entrepreneurship community.
One of my first experiences with the RINs was when I was working for a local economic development agency as the Rural Business Enhancement Officer, helping a company in Cypress County. While I can’t give you all the details due to confidentiality, I can tell you that the client had a food product, which required a unique type of testing to get certified. The company owner had been shipping his product to Ontario, as that was the only place in Canada he was aware of that could do the unique type of analysis required. The expense and time this was taking was slowing down his operations.
A quick call to the RIN’s connector service revealed that while we did not have this testing service in Southern Alberta, there was a place in Edmonton that had the capabilities. The local company was then able to have the analysis performed in Alberta from then on.
I never forgot that first experience and the quick answers and savings I was able to get for that company. While each RIN provides services locally, the strength of the system is that it allows clients to access provincial assets from anywhere in Alberta.
A few years after that event, I would become involved with the APEX RIN again. At the time, I was the manager of business development for MHC, with duties that ranged from overseeing the Entrepreneur Development Centre to various innovation projects. During those four years, the partners were able to work together to help companies access research dollars and create prototypes, provide students with hands on experience with emerging technologies, developed innovation spaces such as renewable energy micro-grids, and put on numerous free training events for business on topics from protecting intellectual property to cybersecurity.
Now that I am back and in a key role for the APEX partnership, I am excited to work with local innovators again. This has been an extremely challenging year for business, but as our community recovers new technologies are emerging. Thanks to support from Alberta Innovates, we too are growing our services for entrepreneurs, providing more help for companies to start and scale their operations. Soon we will also be announcing a new community space that will help those with great ideas bring their creations to fruition.
In short, APEX equips our entrepreneurial clients with the coaching, community, capital and creative learning spaces needed to build a successful business in Southeast Alberta. If you are a tech or knowledge-based business, or a company with a new invention or idea, I encourage you to connect with me to learn more about how the APEX team can support you.
Tracy Stroud, BHRM, is the APEX Regional Innovation Network Coordinator - Southeast Alberta. She can be reached at 403-528-2824 or firstname.lastname@example.org