By Nathan Rudyk

Ottawa, the city that urban guru Richard Florida rates as “Best Overall” in Canada on his Creative Class Index, is making its contribution to the province and the entire country better known this week as its innovation engine pumps power into the the life science and software clusters.

In life sciences, the Ottawa Life Sciences Cluster, an industry-driven team being steered by OCRI's Global Marketing group, is working hard to drive more collaboration among 90-plus companies, institutes and research centres located in the region. The goal is a new generation of globally-focused companies like Ottawa's eSight Corp., which makes electronically assisted vision systems set to eclipse the multi-billion dollar hearing-aid market in just a few years.

Chart from Cities Grow Ontario: Urban Challenges and Prospects

Several Ottawa valley medical institutions have helped eSight with crucial clinical testing. eSight is actively engaging Ottawa-area ophthalmologists and optometrists who will recommend its ALIVIOS product to patients and low vision rehabilitation therapists. Early testing of the ALIVIOS prototype at the University of Ottawa Eye Institute at The Ottawa Hospital shows dramatic improvements in key metrics such as contrast sensitivity, facial recognition, and reading speed.

To turn the company’s ALIVIOS Intelligent Eyewear from an R&D idea to a commercial product, eSight also tapped into Ottawa’s strong executive talent pool. President and CEO Kevin Rankin, worked closely with Mr. Lewis at Newbridge Networks, then went on to found Tropic Networks Inc. Rob Hilkes, VP of Marketing and Business Development has held senior positions in several Ottawa technology firms including MOSAID Technologies Inc., Tundra Semiconductor Corp., and UBM TechInsights.

There is equally interesting innovation coming out of Ottawa's software cluster where the team at Coral CEA is also pumping hard. This brainchild of Carleton University Professor Tony Bailetti is now funded with $9.3 million over five years by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI), Carleton University, IBM, GENBAND, Eclipse Foundation and ITAC. Headed by enterprise tech product strategy and development veteran Brian Forbes, Coral CEA is teaching the trade secrets of building Open Innovation software ecosystems across the province.

The immediate prize for Ontario software companies is speed-to-market on adding Communcations Enabled Applications (the "CEA" in which the "Coral" can grow) to software applications that can then be used by people to spontaneously collaborate and even speak in real-time. The grand prize is that large institutions and software companies in Ontario can learn to build not just a few apps with CEA inside, but application ecosystems akin to what ICT pioneers like and Apple have done to huge effect.

Since receiving its first provincial funding Coral CEA has:

  • Partnered with 50 companies across Ontario, nine of them brand new firms (In August 2011, one of those new firms, Cliniconex Inc. of Ottawa launched its first product)
  • Helped create over 60 new software jobs in Ontario
  • Invested $850,000 dollars in public sector funding
  • Leveraged its public funding into a total of $30 million of in-kind services and cash from private sector member companies from start-ups to multinationals

Innovation lives in Ottawa! If you want to read more about the progress of the Ottawa Life Sciences Cluster click here to read market2world's press release. And if you want to know where that gorgeous chart above comes from that shows Ottawa's amazing concentration of Creative Class workers compared to the rest of Ontario, click here. That last click will take you to an report timed to the Ontario election called Cities Grow Ontario.

Here's an excerpt from the report, prepared by the University of Toronto's The Cities Centre, Innis Urban Studies Program, and Martin Prosperity Institute along with contributors from several other universities across Ontario:

Cities grow Ontario. It’s not just that the growth of cities increases the population of the entire province. In cities, both individuals and companies are more productive, creative and innovative. Cities have more trained and educated people. And, they earn more money, not just because the cost of living is higher. Cities generate provincial and federal tax revenues in amounts greater than their proportion of the population. As Ontario’s cities grow and prosper, the entire province benefits.

Growing cities are growing markets for agricultural and other goods produced across the non-metropolitan portions of Ontario. Cities provide the employment and income for people who then spend their money and their weekends at the cottage or enjoying one of the many recreational opportunities in abundance across the province. While the cities are home to manufacturing facilities and other traded industries, cities are more likely to have the home office and management. Cities are providing the infrastructure that enables non-metropolitan manufacturing establishments to be successful.

(Nathan Rudyk is President and CEO with market2world communications inc., the public relations and product marketing agency for global innovators.)