Innovation Driving Economic Growth and Sustainability in the District of Squamish

Economic Development at the District of Squamish is focused on developing the regional innovation ecosystem, as it contributes to the development of a resilient and diversified regional economy. The journey began in 2019 when the District embraced a sector ecosystem comprising Core and Enabling Sectors and Emerging Areas, and in 2020, the Emerging Sector Roadmap and Action Plan (Plan) was endorsed. This Plan, informed by an inclusive engagement process called the Emerging Sector Series, identified the pivotal role of fostering local innovation in establishing a solid economic foundation. As a result, in 2022, the District established the Innovation Working Group (Group), which marked a significant milestone in Squamish's innovation journey. 

From the outset, the Group recognized the importance of defining the role of innovation in shaping Squamish and the region's economy, thereby establishing the mandate for the Innovation Working Group. The primary objectives were centered around the development of a Circular Economy and the formalization of Squamish's Innovation Ecosystem. 

The Innovation Mission 

The Innovation Working Group's mission is to foster a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and sustainability. Continuously adapting and responding to the evolving needs of regional innovation, positioning the Sea to Sky Corridor as a dynamic innovation ecosystem. By forging connections with networks and leveraging available resources, the Group fosters ideation, encourages innovative solutions, and advocates to eliminate barriers to the growth and development of our regional innovation ecosystem. 

Why Innovation Matters 

Innovation is vital for creating a thriving community. It promotes cohesion, addresses challenges, attracts resources, and provides a solid foundation for effective planning and decision-making. Squamish, with a high concentration of entrepreneurs, values accessibility to tools and support, aiming to democratize entrepreneurship and promote community, sustainability, and resource efficiency. 

Globally, innovation plays a crucial role in propelling progress and driving advancements in various fields. By nurturing an environment that encourages creative thinking and exploration, Squamish fosters economic growth, positive societal change, and continuous improvement. 

Customized Framework for Success 

The District of Squamish looked at various approaches to develop innovation hubs and districts -analyzing reports from organizations like McKinsey and the Brookings Institute and explored models such as the Triple-Helix model, Social Innovation, and Theory U and studying thriving communities like Boulder to identify critical success factors. 

The findings revealed that key factors for successful innovation ecosystems include partnerships with higher education, an entrepreneurial culture, specific innovation infrastructure, a high quality of life, collaboration, networking, and access to capital and incubators. These factors fit into the Brookings Model, but Squamish has customized the framework to include foundational elements tailored for the community's unique context.  The innovation ecosystem is seen as a framework consisting of Physical, Economic, and Network Assets. It emphasizes strong relationships, clear governance, vision, resourcing, financial and human resources, and a distinct brand to ensure innovation can flourish. Policy environment, too, is considered, as it can either facilitate or limit innovation. 

In conclusion, innovation is critical for Squamish's well-being and prosperity. It brings communities together, addresses challenges, attracts talent and investment, and fosters more innovative solutions. Through access to tools and a supportive community, Squamish aims to democratize entrepreneurship, solve societal problems, and create spaces for collaboration and environmental sustainability. By encouraging creative solutions and fostering economic growth, Squamish is committed to promoting positive change in the region.