Newfoundland and Labrador has a new government- and industry-backed innovation hub focused specifically on remote operations, meaning technology controlled from a different location.

In an interview, Co. Innovation Centre President Meagan Kay-Fowlow, who will run the industry hub on behalf of techNL, said she expects that her team will work with a range of industries, ranging from energy to healthcare.

“One of the main focuses for us is to … support established and growing companies to collaborate together,” she said. “We wanted to create a space for those companies to come together across different industries.”

In the context of that broader goal, she described remote operations as a key part of the centre’s programming.

“I joined late last July, but … this innovation centre has been in the ideation stages for over 10 years, so the ecosystem in the province has really seen the need for something like this,” Kay-Fowlow said.

A political scientist by training, she has held leadership roles at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, where she was a program manager at the Centre for Ethical, Social, and Cultural Risk, and McMaster University, where she was the assistant director of operations at the Institute on Ethics & Policy for Innovation.

She added that many of the industries in which Newfoundland startups have excelled in recent years, particularly bluetech, energy and healthtech, are increasingly turning to remotely operated technology to solve a variety of problems.

Kraken Robotics, one of the most valuable startups in Newfoundland history, with a market cap of more than $221 million, has built its business on the design and manufacturing of unmanned marine vessels for applications as diverse as oil and gas projects and minesweeping.

And the healthcare field is increasingly turning to remote technologies, including telehealth platforms and more complex medical technologies, techNL said in a press release when the centre was announced in 2022. St. John’s based PragmaClin, for example, is developing a tool for healthcare providers to remotely monitor Parkinson’s patients.

“Remote operations is not new,” said Kay-Fowlow. “We have a really strong group of businesses that have already been working in those areas for many years.

“There’s a gap in connectivity, so the ability to connect across those businesses, but there are existing businesses that are already doing work related to remote operations.”

The Co. Innovation Centre itself is a joint project between techNL, Energy NL, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and Energy Research and Innovation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Located on Torbay Road in St. John's, it includes 20,000 square feet of office and light industrial space. Its creation, techNL has said previously, was inspired by a pair of reports in recent years from the Newfoundland government and management consulting giant McKinsey & Company that both recommended the creation of new initiatives to address a lack of communication and collaboration opportunities for entrepreneurs in the the region — particularly those from rural communities.

The provincial Way Forward on Technology plan and McKinsey’s Economic Growth Strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador both describe an innovation landscape in which communications are siloed between industries, and in which founders are grappling with a lack of flexible office space and a generally fragmented startup economy.

“What we would love to be able to do is also bring in a variety of (technological) assets that maybe are a bit too expensive for one business to procure, or they don’t need that product all the time,” said Kay-Fowlow, adding that innovation support programming for the Co. Innovation Centre is in the works.