A Year of Transition and Growth
How would you characterize the OCE experience last year?
Tom - It has been an exciting year of transition in working with the Ontario government to help them realize their goals. The provincial announcement of more than $295 million in youth employment programs in the 2013 budget led to many new programs that are now being managed by OCE. And we have seen significant growth overall. There will be a thousand funding applications reviewed this year – almost triple that of last year.
This has been a year of establishing and launching programs and working out the details. Next year, we will begin to see the results in terms of job creation and follow-on investment.
Michael – This growth in new programs launched by OCE is very positive. It signals that OCE is getting really good traction in the marketplace with both entrepreneurs and funders such as government and industry. It also confirms that OCE is demonstrating that we have developed a sustainable business model. This is seen in the number and range of programs we are now able to offer as a result of government and industry support.
What do you especially want our stakeholders to know about what we achieved in 2013/14?
Tom – I’m very excited about some initiatives we’ve recently become involved in such as the launching of the Campus-Linked Accelerator program, which has evolved from a pilot to a full program; TalentEdge to provide Ontario students and recent graduates with internship and fellowship opportunities; the growth of the Collaboration Voucher Program; and our partnerships in the oneeleven and Venus Cybersecurity incubators. We’re finding more opportunities to partner with industry to advance various sector-specific initiatives. This is another way for us to support areas that are priorities for the province that are synergistic with our traditional mandate in funding industry-academic collaboration.
Michael – We’ve evolved into a very efficient and effective delivery business. This can be seen in our drop in program delivery costs as a percentage of our total funding deployed, as well as in terms of the growth of our funding portfolio. This shows that we are becoming more productive as our programs scale and grow. We’ve built confidence and trust amongst our provincial and federal government, and industry funders to roll out programs in an accountable, transparent and efficient manner.
Also, OCE has entered a new phase in establishing significant relationships and partnerships with major organizations like OMERS and IBM. This is important as these arrangements help us build the profile and credibility we need to have the greatest possible impact. These are the kind of players that only come to the table when you can demonstrate tangible results.
Tom – The fact that OMERS and IBM find it useful to partner with OCE speaks volumes about the role we can play in assisting not only university spinoffs but these larger organizations as well. Our partners trust us to be an honest broker in bringing organizations together to effect transactions for economic development.
Is OCE evolving in a particular direction?
Tom – We continue to move toward a whole-of-government approach wherever possible. To avoid duplicating efforts, we have been successful in bringing different levels of government together to deliver common programs for them. We work with government organizations on initiatives that are important to them such as youth entrepreneurship.
We are also becoming an even closer partner with industry. Through our Collaboration Voucher Program, we are able to work with industry to deal with bigger challenges to advance innovation in provincial priority sectors.
Michael – We have become a real connector amongst the various players in the marketplace. And in building a whole-of-government approach, OCE has access to program funding that allows us to have a much greater impact in creating economic growth.
Tom – And we are building solid relationships with industry and, as a result, are able to bring significant amounts of funding to the table that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the province to address their priority areas.
Michael – A big winner in all this is the youth of the province, who are getting a chance to develop their talents and skills. We are supporting companies that are creating jobs which generate taxes for the province. And that is a good deal for taxpayers.
What do you believe is the secret of OCE’s success?
Michael – We have matured as an organization and are evolving and demonstrating our strengths…deal by deal…and having the moxie to secure the whole-of-government initiative and to establish the relationships with significant industry partners. There is definitely a sense of momentum.
What are the biggest challenges we face?
Tom – We must continue to increase our efficiency as an organization so that the cost per dollar of successful program delivery is as low as possible. We also have to make sure that we deploy our funding where we will get the best results. That means choosing the right projects and the right partners.
Michael – There is no question that we’re going to be challenged when it comes to continuing to attract top talent. We simply can’t execute programs without the right kind of talent. OCE has developed an aggressive human resources strategy to enable the organization to compete in the employment market for the best people. We recognize the critical role staff play in ensuring OCE meets its ambitious goals. OCE’s success is predominantly driven by the relationships, knowledge and skills of its staff.
Tom – We’re not just out to fund projects. We want to fund the right projects. That can only happen by having highly skilled people on staff who can ask the right questions, make the right decisions, and bring the right proposals forward to our external College of Reviewers.
What are you most proud of about the work done by OCE last year?
Tom – We have had some real success in building relationships with other provinces, most notably Alberta and Quebec. We are leveraging industry, academia and innovation intermediaries such as CQDM and Alberta Innovates Technology Futures and, through our collaborations, avoiding duplication of research. This is good for the taxpayers of Canada and the individual provinces. It’s not easy to get researchers and industry in different provinces to work together but there are huge benefits to this whole-of-government pan-Canadian approach.
Michael – We must continue to play a role in helping Ontario increase its global competitiveness. Every year at Discovery we have been increasing the number of international investors and partners who attend and see our innovative Ontario technologies – one way we are able to give our companies a window on the world. We are also beginning to build more partnerships in other countries, including with China’s HanHai ZhiYe Investment Management Group and the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology, as a way to help Ontario companies access the global marketplace.
Thank you from OCE’s President and Chair
The many successes we have had this year can be directly attributed to the exceptional work of the entire OCE team.
Our volunteer Board of Directors, comprised of some of the province’s most distinguished industry and academic leaders, has given generously of their time in providing invaluable advice and guidance.
OCE staff went above and beyond all expectations to meet the challenges associated with an expanding mandate. They unfailingly demonstrated their professionalism, passion for the cause of innovation in Ontario, and commitment to supporting the entrepreneurial visions of OCE clients.
We are, of course, extremely gratified by the confidence and trust the Government of Ontario and our federal partners have shown in OCE, allowing us to play so integral a role in the economic development and prosperity of our province and beyond.
Dr. Tom Corr
President and CEO
Michael J. Nobrega
Chair, Board of Directors