Rural Innovation Centre Highlight

Paul Richards from Innovacorp

“Probably more than ever, the pace in which ideas need to be evolving has increased. So people have to understand the process of how you develop an idea. It can’t be a stagnant idea and it can’t be an old idea.”

Tell me a little about your business and what role you play in it’s operations.

Innovacorp is a provincial crown corporation. We are Nova Scotia’s Innovation Company, so we focus on early stage technologies. We find, foster, and fund technologies primarily in four categories: Clean Tech, Life Science, ICT, and Ocean Tech.

We do that in a number of different ways. We have a venture capital fund, which is called the Nova Scotia First Fund and is a little more than $50 million. We take equity as a venture capital equity play, where we invest in emerging technologies that we feel have the ability to be disruptive and have the growth rates that warrant that type of investment. We also have incubation. We have a number of facilities in Nova Scotia and we are thought to be one of the leaders in the sector, both in Canada and Internationally.

Fostering is another important focus of Innovacorp, and we do that through acceleration programs. We focus on a number of things like giving expert advice and running competitions, but probably more importantly we help build a startup ecosystem. Businesses don’t start in a vacuum, they need to have the right ingredients, so we ensure the winning conditions are in place for technology companies to grow.

What is your favorite part about the Rural Innovation Centre?

It’s important to be on campus. Universities have always been the place where ideas come together and an important part of the startup ecosystem is bringing together people for the collision of ideas. Again that’s why Innovacorp is here at Acadia, the Rural Innovation Centre is designed to be that intersect point.

What piece of advice would you give to students who are looking to get into entrepreneurship?

Probably more than ever, the pace in which ideas need to be evolving has increased. So people have to understand the process of how you develop an idea. It can’t be a stagnant idea and it can’t be an old idea. To use the old Wayne Gretzky analogy “Don’t go where the puck is, go to where it is going”. People need to understand the problem, and where the problem is going before they can understand the solution.

What’s an interesting fact about your business or something cool you are working on?

Looking at Ag-Tech, food is the biggest industry in the world, it’s a $12 Trillion sector. It has some of the biggest opportunities in it because of the massive changes taking place with global warming and population size. We need to innovate, it’s not a lifestyle change it’s species change. We need food. So what industry is going to be tasked with innovating more than that? In Nova Scotia, we are either going to be purchasers or developers of that innovation. We are an agricultural community so it’s our opportunity to seize and it will be our challenge over the next 5-10 years to capture global opportunities that this trend presents.