In conversation with Destination Canada Business Events at our most recent Skift Global Forum event, we discussed how providing access to local knowledge and expertise is the best value proposition to drive the future of business events and foster long-term economic growth. In our profile of Dr. Vikram Misra, a professor in microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan, the inner-workings of this knowledge-sector strategy came into sharper focus. For the next installment in our series, SkiftX connected with Cathy Hogan, an innovator in Canada’s easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador. Hogan is the executive director of OceansAdvance, the voice of the province’s ocean technology sector.
“It’s our job to bring the community together, and to bring the world to our sector,” Hogan said. OceansAdvance membership includes industry leaders, the research community, and federal, provincial and municipal government stakeholders. “We’re basically a rock in the middle of the Atlantic, where the Labrador current often meets the Gulf Stream, but we’ve built a strong ocean research community in this harsh environment, and we have a critical mass of expertise.”
Visitors can tap into that expertise at world-class facilities such as the National Research Council’s Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering Research Centre (NRC), home to the world’s longest ice tank, which allows evaluation of ocean vessel performance in simulated icy conditions, and the Offshore Engineering Basin, a testing site for autonomous underwater vehicles. According to Hogan, another top draw for industry visitors is the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, which is dedicated to marine-focused education and research and carries out applied research for private and public sector clients. “Seeing the institute’s computer-based marine simulators in action is truly phenomenal,” Hogan said. “It’s a must-stop for anyone attending an ocean sciences event in the region.”
In addition, many local companies are more than happy to provide tours of their facilities to demo their products and services. “Our companies specialize in everything from sustainable fisheries to ocean sensors, marine robotics equipment, and sub-sea cameras and acoustic imaging,” Hogan said, “and they’re here with open arms. Everybody in the province recognizes the importance of oceans, and we want to share our knowledge with the world. It’s in our blood.”
That unity of purpose, where every stakeholder is speaking the same language, is what makes the knowledge-sector strategy work so efficiently in Newfoundland and Labrador. “We’re lucky in that industry, energy and technology are all tied into one department within the provincial government,” Hogan said. “The provincial ministers, staff, and various departments are well aligned regarding all things ocean, and they fully understand the effect that the oceans sector has on the provincial and national economies.”
In 2014, St. John’s brought together over 2,000 attendees from 46 countries for the IEEE Marine Technology Society’s North American Oceans event, but the value for attendees extended well beyond exchanging ideas, meeting local experts, and learning about the region’s ocean technology infrastructure.
“We have the connections to provide them with more of a local experience,” Hogan said. “So our icebreaker showcased a Newfoundland band, eight-foot-high banners with beautiful Newfoundland scenes on them, and incredible ice sculptures. Anybody can organize a conference, but what makes Newfoundland different is our phenomenal culture in music and art.”
Cathy sees the Ocean’s ‘14 event as a major proof point for Canada’s ocean-innovation ecosystem: “Our holistic, community-based support system lends greatly to making this city an incredibly distinct and unique location to host ocean-related events.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic put most of the events that had been planned for 2020 and 2021 on hold, with some shifting to virtual formats, Hogan remains excited about future in-person events in St. John’s. “We’re in the process of organizing a large women’s conference called Women in Ocean Industries,” Hogan said. “We pushed it out to 2022, when we think the world will be ready to return to St. John’s.”
Over 40 organizations have already agreed to support the event. “It really is a concerted effort on everybody’s part, and all it takes is a phone call to get people behind you.”
GET TO KNOW CATHY HOGAN
- Born and raised in St. John’s, Cathy Hogan started out working in the hotel business.
- She currently lives 15 minutes from Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America, and she once visited the most westerly point of Ireland. “It’s kind of cool. I can say I’ve been on both sides of the Atlantic.”
- At OceansAdvance, she’s developing a talent pipeline for women and students to keep young people in the province. “Unfortunately, one of our greatest exports has been our people, but Newfoundlanders always come home.”
- One of her favorite lines: “Our members have world-class products and services for below the seabed, on the seafloor, and on the surface — if it’s oceans related, our cluster’s got it covered!”
- She appreciates St. John’s friendly, small-town vibe (“People will still stop you on the street if you look lost and ask if they can help”) and growing international flair (“You can get really good Thai and Vietnamese food in St. John’s now”).
- But her favorite food is seafood, and she isn’t afraid to stake St. John’s claim to having the best in the world: “You know what? St. John’s is not unique because of the seafood, but our seafood is better because the water is colder here.”
- She’s very welcoming: “Seriously, you must try the fish and chips. Come to St. John’s and we’ll give you an experience you’ll never forget. You’ll always want to come back. And don’t forget my women’s conference in 2022!”
- And she’s charmingly insistent: “People think it’s too hard to get here, but that’s a misconception. In reality, anywhere you are in the world, we’re just two stops away.”
Watch our Skift Global Forum session on Tapping Into Local Innovation to Drive Business Events and Resilient Communities to learn more about how regional experts like Cathy Hogan and Vikram Misra bring this strategy to life.
For more information about Destination Canada’s work within priority economic sectors and how they can benefit business events, visit Destination Canada Business Events.