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Innovators coming to Kootenays looking for solutions

This is an opportunity to personally connnect with the BC Innovation Council September 29th at Best Western on Baker Street. — Submitted photo

They may be big companies looking for high-tech solutions to high-tech problems, but there’s still nothing that beats talking to people face-to-face.

That’s why the BC Innovation Council is travelling the province with its BC Growth Opportunity Tour. The “showcase of challenges” arrives in Nelson on September 29 at the Best Western on Baker Street.

“What we found is by bringing opportunity where people work, it opens up innovation immensely,” says BCIC President and CEO Carl Anderson. He says the personal connections are crucial.

“If the actual company that’s looking for a solution is in the room, there’s tremendous energy,” he says. “But if it’s not the actual person you can talk to about it, it changes the whole dynamic.”

The Innovation Council that Anderson leads will spend seven weeks, visiting six cities, trying to link up industry and governments with challenges to the people who may have solutions to those problems. Nelson is the only stop in the Kootenays.

There are large companies, like IBM and the BC Lotteries Corporation, but also smaller regional companies facing innovation challenges.

“It’s the collision of ideas, that’s a big part of what we're looking at,” he says. “If you are an IBM, you’re doing lots of research, you’re a big business- but you only know what you only know.

“Things are moving so fast, I don’t care who you are, or how big your budget is, you’re not the entire tech world.”

Each company participating in the showcase, as the meeting is called, has 10 minutes to make their pitch for what they are looking for, and to take questions. Coffee breaks provide more informal chances for people to interact. In all, the tour allows companies to make connections they may not otherwise have the opportunity to make.

That’s especially true in the Kootenays, where individuals and small businesses may be more isolated.

Anderson says since February, 600 connections have been made and multiple deals have already closed, including a linkup between Nelson’s Pacific Insight with Streamline, a Kamloops-based transportation and logistics firm.

“Someone might say ‘well, I can’t talk to IBM or I can’t talk to BC Lotteries,” he says. “That’s why we included a bunch of regionally tech-enabled  companies  that are like you and me.”

Those smaller firms allow individuals or small businesses to see that “if they can do it, I can do it”, he says.

Anderson, who was raised in Grand Forks, says innovative companies may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Kootenays, but that’s changing.

“There’s been a game changer in the world, and that’s ubiquitous high-speed internet,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where you live anymore. It matters what you do, and how you interact. And that’s a really big game changer.

Anderson calls the Kootenays “fertile ground” for start-ups and innovators.

“What’s happened is you have net migration out of Vancouver and other big centres to smaller centres,” he says.

“There is a migration of potentially smart people who want to live where they can maybe afford a house. They recognize they can be on the internet and talk. They can catch a plane and be [in Vancouver].”

Surprise can be a big element of innovation and opportunity. Anderson cites an example from the Innovation Tour’s first tour in the spring.

“There’s a guy in Prince George that runs a worldwide GIS [Geographic Information} system. In Prince George.

“It’s like, wow.”

For more information on the Tour, and to register, visit the BCIC website.