Salmon Capital of the World

When you think of Campbell River and Northern Vancouver Island, you think of fishing.

And for good reason – Campbell River is home to 5 species of salmon, a substantial and historic fishing industrysalmon festivals, and a plethora of rivers, inlets, lakes and ocean channels. It’s the Salmon Capital of the World, and the people there are proud of their heritage as an independent minded, ocean-loving people.

But, like pretty much everywhere else, they are dealing with a changing climate, and a rapidly evolving economy.

Catriona Power from Foresight Cleantech Accelerator recently hosted a roundtable discussion and meeting in Campbell River, BC as part of the BC Cleantech Cluster Strategy project to learn more about how the region is adapting to change and what is happening in the local economy in the area of cleantech.

Key innovators and business and community leaders across the North Island region met up with Catriona to discuss cleantech, share ideas and plan for the future.

The first topic of discussion concerned the strengths of the region. A major theme that emerged was the interconnectivity and the ecosystem around economic development and innovation.

The event was co-hosted by the City of Campbell River Economic Development Officer Rose Klukas, and the overall strength of the innovation ecosystem (such as the Vancouver Island Economic AllianceCommunity Futures Strathcona, Innovation Island Accelerator, the university/college like North Island College and Island Coastal Economic Trust) were seen as important, strategic and well developed.

… and a Challenge

Another big win for the region that was discussed was the recently announced tech competition that is offering four individual challenges with awards ranging from $45,000 to $100,000 for companies that can solve problems related to marine wildlife monitoring, portable renewable energy pods, bladeless oyster shucking (there’s even a ‘wildcard’ category to encourage out-of-the box thinking on cleantech innovation).

Dylan Groven from Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Centre (who is sponsoring the energy pod component of the competition) was at the Roundtable event in Campbell River to make the announcement:  “Foresight believes in a strong regional economy and we’re looking forward to seeing an innovative, renewable portable energy pod coming out of Vancouver Island”

Industries – Some Traditional, Some New, All Evolving

In addition to recreational and commercial fishing, northern Vancouver Island has many traditional industries, many of them resources based such as Forestrymining and agriculture/food processing. The natural resources of the area (along with tourism, which is driven by visitors coming because of the abundant resources and access to nature) were seen as an economic strength.

Another location-related economic strength in cleantech was noted in the area of power generation, including renewable and tidal energy.

Many of the leading and emerging companies in cleantech are evolving out of the resource industry, including:

  • Coulson Ice Blast which uses frozen water instead of using chemicals to clean industrial manufacturing sites in Port Alberni.
  • Poseidon Ocean Systems: marine harvest solutions in Campbell River

Northern Vancouver Island has a culture of independence and ‘getting things done’, and a positive mix of experienced older people, and a returning younger generation.

Activities to support industry growth

The discussion ended with next steps – what could be done to encourage cleantech innovation in the region? There were multiple suggestions made including:

  • Telling the Story – marketing the region, telling stories about what is happening
  • Taking the cleantech strategy from the seven local municipalities to next stage as a key pillar for economic development
  • Connections and Networking – developing more opportunities to connect and network across industries and regions
  • Space – provide ‘innovation space’, offices, labs, test areas
  • Innovation support – focus on sales, shipping, go-to-market
  • Capital aggregation – larger grants, not just piecemeal grants
  • Procurement – develop ways to make this more effective

Special thanks to Rose Klukas from the City of Campbell River for hosting this event and inviting us to visit and engage with your community.

Campbell River and Northern Vancouver Island – historic, stunningly beautiful, rich in resources and a unique hub of clean energy innovation – the Salmon Capital of the World is evolving and changing just like the ocean and the environment that surrounds it.

Can’t wait to visit again – hope you’ll put some salmon on the barbeque for me.

Using the best practices of cluster-based economic development, the BC Cleantech Cluster Initiative is bringing together key stakeholders groups including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), associations, industry, investors and Federal and Provincial government to put in motion a sustainable model to help advance British Columbia’s thriving cleantech sector.

The recent roundtable meeting in Campbell River, BC is one of many regional and sector-based workshop/meetings being held across the province to stimulate discussion and share information and ideas about the cleantech economy emerging in British Columbia.