The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology and Innovation will hold its annual Innovation Week starting Monday, with a special focus on resiliency and adaptability.
NATI and its partners usually stage Innovation Week each spring with a series of in-person events around the province. But this year, the pandemic got in the way. So the event was postponed to the fall, made virtual and is now focusing on what companies can do and are doing to thrive in the current environment. You can find more information and buy tickets here.
“It’s about opportunities and resilience, hope in the face of crisis,” said NATI Chief Executive Paul Preston in an interview. “How you embrace change and embrace opportunity – that’s the theme of the week.”
NATI will host an event each day over four days:
Monday, 9:30 am NST
Innovation Week Launch and Keynote
NATI will unveil its Innovation Strategy for the coming years, followed by a keynote address by Bethany Downer, the first scientist-astronaut candidate from Atlantic Canada. Downer plans to complete her first commercial suborbital spaceflight within the next five to 10 years.
Tuesday, 11 am NST
Advocating for the Technology Sector
This is a panel discussion with Seamus O’Regan, Federal Minister of Natural Resources, and Andrew Parsons, Provincial Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology.
Wednesday 9:30 am NST
Profoundly Pivoting: Resiliency in the Tech Sector
This discussion examines how many local tech companies have pivoted to respond to the economic challenges posed by the pandemic.
Thursday 9:30 am NST
Tech Sector Mash Up - Connecting Students with Tech Companies
This virtual networking event is designed to connect post-secondary students and local technology companies. Students will visit “virtual booths” to meet with local company representatives.
Other parties are planning events, such as the Bounce Innovation health hackathon and another hackathon in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Preston said the overall message for Innovation Week is that the tech sector has shown resilience and flexibility through the pandemic, and its companies have persevered. A recent survey of NATI members showed that three-quarters have not had to lay off staff or reduce hours. Even the finding that 62 percent had experienced a drop in revenue could be seen in a positive light, because in a March survey 84 percent had lost revenue or were expecting to do so.
The tech sector will be needed to ensure growth during the coming recovery, said Preston. NATI hopes to drive home to ministers at the round table next week that the province needs to change the education system to ensure Newfoundland and Labrador has the right talent to accommodate that growth.
“The biggest thing that we’re advocating for is we need to transform our educational platform – not just post-secondary but K-12 as well,” said Preston. “We need to get kids to understand that they don’t have to leave Atlantic Canada to succeed.”
Headway is being made on producing more tech talent, he said. The private Keyin College has introduced a 16-month development course and signed up 27 students to the first cohort. The College of the North Atlantic launched a three-year software program, and it immediately filled its 25 spaces and had a waiting list of 100 students. NATI is working with the college to try to increase the first cohort to 50 students. It is also working with Memorial University of Newfoundland on finding ways to increase enrollment in its Computer Science faculty.