TechImpact names Cathy Simpson as new CEO

FREDERICTON, NB—Senior ICT leader Cathy Simpson is TechImpact’s new CEO.

Most recently T4G’s VP, People and Culture, Simpson will capitalize on her two decades of ICT and executive leadership experience to advance TechImpact’s key priorities of workforce development, fostering innovation and growing businesses in the technology sector.

“On behalf of the Board and Executive team, we are excited to have Cathy in this CEO role.  Throughout the years, she’s been involved in TechImpact on various initiatives and has a firm handle on our opportunities and challenges as we look for growth in our sector,” said Roman Coba, incoming Chair of TechImpact and CIO, Emera. “We are looking forward to her leadership in this new capacity.”

For the past 28 years Cathy has been deeply planted in the technology industry in Atlantic Canada, where she began her career at NBTel and Innovatia and was a co-founder of Propel. She is currently chair of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and founder of social innovation start-up Up + Go.

 “When I moved from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick 28 years ago, I never imagined I would still be here and have spent my entire career in the technology industry.  I have been fortunate to work with brilliant people doing extraordinary things, collaborating with clients in the private and public sector and to have been engaged in the start-up and research community as it’s evolved in Atlantic Canada,” said Simpson. “It’s an exciting time for our industry and I am honored to take on this new leadership role.”

TechImpact has three key priorities which include workforce development, fostering innovation, and growing businesses.  Simpson’s initial emphasis will be workforce development.    

About TechImpact
TechImpact is a private sector-led organization focused on growing the technology industry in Atlantic Canada. Founded in 2009, its membership is comprised of the CEOs of the larger technology companies and the CIOs from the largest IT consumers of technology in the region.

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Innovation the is the fuel that will transform our Atlantic Canadian economy

“Innovation is the fuel that will transform the Canadian economy. TechImpact is working to encourage increased innovation in all parts of our economy. This includes supporting increased private sector & university research and commercialization thereof.  This will lead to new products or services around which companies will be built. Innovation is not only for the private sector; we will also encourage the development of innovative and cost-effective ways to deliver traditional public services.”

Our definition of Innovation

Innovation is defined as the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.” -

This is a very simple, straightforward definition of innovation; however successful innovation is neither simple nor straightforward. We must remember that not all novel ideas, inventions or enhancements will be commercially successful. This is an important concept to be aware of when discussing research, development, invention, and process improvements. Many factors come into play to be commercially successful. Most cool ideas remain just that, and never make it to market, or if they do, they are not commercially successful. In many cases, the technical aspects of invention are the easy part of the process to successful innovation. Scale up, marketing, distribution and sales are often the most challenging and expensive part of the innovation process. Managing these challenges and risks is critical to successful innovation.

Although Tech Impact is an IT organization, the positions that we outline in this paper apply to most all industries in all sectors, from aerospace to zookeeping and everything in between. It also covers both product and service companies. Innovation must occur to create and commercialize new products as well as for process improvements such as sales funnels and assembly lines.

Technology is not essential for all innovation; however, it is important to remember that anything that is done to scale (meaning large scale and high volume) needs technology. Whether it is within newer IT industries such as mobile app development or more traditional “non-tech” industries such as fishing, farming or forestry.

Why do we need to innovate?

Atlantic Canada’s economic outlook is dire should our current course and speed perpetuate. Our Provincial governments are materially indebted, our demographics aren’t sustainable with an aging workforce and youth migration and our unemployment rates are high.

These are highly complex problems that require complex and long-term solutions. Increasing our export as a function of GDP will be a key component of any solution. Businesses that focus on exporting expand their growth potential beyond our relatively small regional market to much larger global markets. This enables sales volumes to increase dramatically, resulting in higher profit margins. It also brings new money into the region rather than recirculating the same funds within the region. To support the demands of international markets, businesses must be prepared to scale, which implies the need for innovation and technology.

Economies that embrace a high level of innovation can thrive economically and socially. The outcome will be increased GDP, increased export, increased employment and population growth Estonia is a great example of this.

“Over the past two decades, this former Soviet-controlled nation — home to just 1.3 million people, has quietly become one of the most tech-savvy countries on earth. Estonia is the 79th smallest country in the world by population but holds the world record in startups per person. It has among the world's fastest broadband speeds. The country teaches every kid how to code. Nearly all government services are conducted online. Citizens can access their health records in the cloud and pay for parking with their mobile phones.

Today, 95% of residents declare their taxes online and can do so in typically under five minutes.

The country also instituted a cutting-edge X-Road [data highway] technology platform to help organize, manage and share private and public data between government institutions. That system allowed Estonia to institute online voting in 2005, becoming the first country to ever do so.

Estonian engineers developed the code behind Skype in 2003 and sold it to eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion, triggering a windfall. "Suddenly, four kids in a place that everyone said was just a backwater boondox came up with something that became a worldwide phenomenon," President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said. "They became filthy rich and changed the whole mindset here from "Why should I study math?" to "I too could be one of those guys."

As the Skype founders became rock stars, a new generation of young Estonians flocked to try their hand at tech. Today, high-tech industries now make up about 15% of Estonia's total GDP. There are an estimated 350 Estonian startups — one for every 3,700 citizens.”

“Estonia is a very open economy - the export of goods and services exceeds approximately 85% of GDP”.

We believe:

  • Innovation is a cornerstone of economic prosperity.
  • The fundamental components already exist within Atlantic Canada to create a culture of innovation within all sectors, to accelerate our Innovation activity and kickstart our economic growth and prosperity.

  • A planned approach to Innovation is the lowest risk and most cost-effective approach to maximize your ROI.

  • Collaboration is critical to acquiring new knowledge and expertise

  • Each business must find the right mix of radical and incremental innovation that matches their level of risk tolerance

  • Government, private sector, the startup community and academia must all have a collective understanding of their roles and be willing to collaborate with each other.

  • The BCLL is a novel approach to connecting business problems and opportunities to potential solutions provided by local companies and/or institutions.

  • TechImpact companies will lead by example and spearhead our collaborative innovation efforts in Atlantic Canada.


1-2 Year Postdoctoral Fellow Position - UNB Technology Management & Entrepreneurship

1-2 Year Postdoctoral Fellow Position

at Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, University of New Brunswick, Canada

The position is in the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship (TME), Faculty of Engineering, University of New Brunswick (UNB), Canada. A recent Industry Canada report ranked UNB number one in Teaching and Learning, among all Canadian higher education institutions that support entrepreneurship education. In 2014, StartUp Canada recognized UNB with the Most Entrepreneurial Post-Secondary Institution of the Year award.

The Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for TME is dedicated to cultivating new ideas, creative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit in the ever changing world of technology. The Centre offers unique and innovative undergraduate and graduate programs that are designed to ensure students and working professionals with technological backgrounds have the necessary management and entrepreneurial skills to succeed in today’s world.

Description of the position

  • The candidate contributes to research of the Centre and the Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Technology Management areas in particular. The postdoctoral fellow position are initially for one year and subject to renewal based on performance.
  • The candidate will work very closely with Siemens & NB Power to develop business models for the energy sector. The business models would provide insights and help with better decision making.
  • This position requires the candidate to conduct research including data collection and analysis, writing for publication in academic conferences and journals, and developing grant proposals.

To qualify for the positions, candidates should have:

  • Completed PhD in a relevant field (Business, Management, Applied Economics, Data Science, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Marketing or Engineering) within last two years.
  • Some experience working with industry.
  • Econometric analysis with a focus on cluster analysis.
  • Survey design and conducting structured interviews with utilities and energy consumers.

Applications will include:

  • Cover letter
  • Detailed current curriculum vitae
  • Statement of research interests
  • Sample publications
  • The names and contacts of three referees

Start date:  Immediate

Send your application by email to Dr. Dhirendra Shukla at the Technology Management & Entrepreneurship Program, Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre, University of New Brunswick

Dhirendra Shukla, PEng. Professor & Chair Dr. J. Herbert Smith/ACOA

Technology Management & Entrepreneurship Program University of New Brunswick

17 Dineen Drive, Rm. H225, Old Head Hall, Fredericton, NB   E3B 5A3

1.506.453.3587 | | @UNBTME

What is innovation – really? Do we need a strategy?

It was a year ago that we finished our 2nd Innovation Week in this great province.  We should be celebrating it here in New Brunswick!  Atlantic Canadians are great innovators.  But let’s take a moment to define what innovation “is” & “isn’t”.  Many people flock to the word innovation.  In my mind it is over used and misinterpreted.  I want to be clear that just because my TechImpact team represents and supports the adoption of technological innovation in all walks of life and business – we don’t want you to think that innovation begins and ends in the technology sector.  Innovation isn’t just about tech companies, however, technology is often at the heart innovation.  At the very least it is often acting as the enabling platform for innovation to occur.  But please remember - innovation is different from invention!  Invention is the creation of something unique, something so new that it revolutionizes current capabilities.  I would suggest that the wheel was truly an invention.  I would also suggest that innovation is the “aggregation” of inventions and/or processes.  The result of which is a new, improved and more efficient end result.  If you agree with my argument thus far, you should also agree that the horse pulled wagon is an innovation.  It is the aggregation of the wheel technology coupled with horse power permitting transportation of large heavy loads across long distances.

So you have read this far and you are asking yourself – “why am I lamenting on the difference between innovation and invention.”  Fair enough.  What I hope to achieve, is to create a convincing argument as to why innovation is so very important here in Atlantic Canada.  Why do you suppose other jurisdictions around the world are focusing so much time effort and money on innovation strategies?   Why do you suppose these same jurisdictions are placing equal amounts of focus on their technology sectors?  In my mind the answer is simple.  These jurisdictions recognize that the world is poised for change. We are changing the way we do everything.  I am not overstating by using the word – “everything.”  From the moment our children are brought into this world today, we are changing the way we monitor their development from cradle to grave.  We are changing the way we feed them, educate them and interact with them.  Businesses are changing the way they interact with you – their customer.  They are changing the way they ask for your opinion, the way they market to you, the way they collect their revenue.  The automotive industry is altering the way they design their vehicles for safety and efficiency at a rapidly accelerating rate.  They are redesigning how they lease and sell them to you so that vehicles remain a big part of your culture.  Hospitals and doctors are changing the way they monitor your health and administer treatments.  Financial institutions are busy re-engineering how they remain relevant in a world of hyper competitiveness.  These are just few examples of where technology is embedded into so many parts of your day to day activities.  Things we take for granted are experiencing radical disruptions.  Take a moment and digest the word “disruption”.  In this instance, please don’t think of disruption as a negative, quarrelsome or a troublesome thing.  I am speaking of disruptions and innovations that are going to bring positive change to the world.

I recently heard Malcolm Gladwell talk about people that had an appropriate level of “disagreeableness”.  Many of you will recognize Gladwell’s genius.  He is a long time writer for the New Yorker and a much respected thinker and headline speaker.  He has written many entertaining and thought provoking articles, including the Tipping Point and Outliers.  Best of all – he is Canadian!  He is quick to state the difference between being disagreeable –vs- unlikable and obnoxious.  For him, being disagreeable means an individual is comfortable with and willing to test the status quo.  Being able to test old strategies and methods with new ways of thinking is how we advance business and society.  He went on to state that many of these people have a dream or a vision and they are willing to push it through in spite of not yet having unanimous support from their peers.  He suggested this is a trait of real leaders and it is a rare gift.  He is also quick to point out that we often equate success with being big.  Sure, being big has its advantages – sometimes but not always.  At the risk of being trite I will refer you to the David and Goliath example.  The classic battle of size and strength –vs- speed and agility.  I bet there wasn’t a soul in the crowd that day willing to bet on poor little David.  What many failed to recognize was the innovation David had at his disposal.  Notice, I didn’t say invention.  David was obviously a clever cat and cobbled together some rope and wood and stone to create an innovative new weapon that his foe was not expecting. The stone, wood, leather and rope were not new inventions.  It was the aggregation of these tools that permitted David to overcome the impossible with his innovation.  An innovation that turned out very well for David.  Not so much for the bigger lad who remained comfortable with the old tools.

In a very light hearted way, I have attempted to paint a picture of how innovation, smallness, ingenuity and indomitable spirit can create a path to success.  I want to apply each of these virtues to grow this regions technology sector and encourage existing businesses to make technology & innovation part of their day to day routine.  As a region, Atlantic Canada is small – but that is to our advantage.  We have a history of innovating like nowhere else in the world.  And gosh knows, if you tell Maritimers that they can’t do something – well that’s enough to ensure they will NEVER quit!

We already have so many of the ingredients in place to kick start our technology sector and innovation culture into high gear.  In many respects we are the envy of other much larger jurisdictions.  However, if we are to capitalize on the assets we have, we need a well thought out strategy that aggregates all of our assets into one single strategy.  A strategy that brings maximum social and economic benefit to our provinces.  Our success doesn’t depend on how many assets we accumulate.  Rather, it depends on how well we bring them together and utilize them to maximum benefit for all.  We need partners to help us develop this strategy.  So I will ask you a question – do you want to capitalize on this opportunity and are you willing to step up and help?  I am sure you are. 

The big data boom

Heather Laura Clarke explores how data-sharing has the power to change government and become a valuable export

Working within government doesn’t usually sound exciting and innovative, but Cathy Simpson says she’s discovering “tremendously inspiring” opportunities to use technology to create smarter cities and provinces.

 Throughout Simpson’s career, she’s developed systems on how to move people more efficiently — both physically through line-ups and virtually through a 1-800 call center, and now her focus is on creating a digital platform where governments can share data with citizens.

The entire article can be found on the Chronicle Herald.

TechImpact Featured on Entrevestor

NB Aims for Digital Government

The New Brunswick government is teaming up with TechImpact with the goal of producing the first truly digital government in North America.

Premier Brian Gallant and Ed McGinley, CEO of TechImpact (formerly the New Brunswick Information Technology Council), jointly announced the initiative at a press conference in Fredericton Thursday.   

Working together, they plan to create a digital hub for public services that will transform the way government and its citizens communicate and work with one another.

“This initiative is the catalytic moment that will kick everything into high gear,” McGinley said Thursday.  “R&D and especially BERD [business enterprise research and development] are recognized as key economic indicators.  We don’t have nearly enough of it happening in Atlantic Canada.  We need to create an environment where this can happen.  It is our opinion that this lab or hub will spark that investment.”

Read the rest of the article at:

TechImpact in the News

Premier Gallant Wants First Digital Gov’t In North America

FREDERICTON–New Brunswick’s government announced today that it is initiating a partnership with TechImpact – an organization made up of local technology business leaders that advocates for a greater embrace of IT literacy and innovation as a strategy for economic growth.

The goal of the partnership will be to transform New Brunswick’s into North America’s first truly digital government.

Find the full article on Huddle.Today.

The Future Can Be Made In New Brunswick

Over the past year or so, there’s been a lot of talk about Estonia in New Brunswick’s technology circles.

David Alston and Greg Hemmings travelled to Finland and Estonia to make the CBC-aired documentary Code Kids, a great film about the incredible advantage we can give our kids by teaching them to code from elementary school onwards.

Estonia has also pioneered Electronic Identification (eID) for every citizen. This unique identifying number would be a secure, and vastly more efficient way for New Brunswickers to manage their interactions with government – that includes everything from car registration, to health records, to voting. eIDs streamline the delivery of government services – you could say that they allow ‘the right hand to know what the left hand is doing’ without compromising the security of our personal data.

So while our community has been pretty inspired by Estonia’s approach to creating a better society for its citizens through technology, the inspiration we’ve gained through exposure to this innovative culture should not lead us toward simple imitation. This inspiration can motivate us to create our own Made In New Brunswick solution that draws on the best practices of other cultures, while reflecting the values of the people who call New Brunswick home.

At TechImpact, we want to help chart the unique path to a better New Brunswick. We have dedicated a lot of time and effort to answering the question “What would an eID system mean to New Brunswick?”

What if our province created a platform to accelerate public and private sector innovation? What if we created a safe environment where government departments, private sector businesses and citizens could come to and experiment with new technologies to create new ways to deliver government services to their citizens?  We see this as one of the best ways in which we can help build that prosperous future that we’re all working towards. This is why we have embraced the idea of “unlocking prosperity with technology.”

We need to march into the 21st century ready to embrace technology and leverage it to our advantage, while remaining mindful of the privacy and security responsibilities that the government must manage on an ongoing basis.

Governments are indeed the trusted line of defense for the protection of citizens’ information.  As citizens, we are obliged to share some of our information with government, so the quid pro quo is that our data will be protected. Governments also have a responsibility to New Brunswickers to deliver high-quality public services at good value – that’s nothing new. Across Canada, every provincial government is trying to meet those same criteria, in different ways.

We’re excited that our provincial government is willing to be innovative as they seek to deliver services to their citizens more effectively and at a reduced cost. They have been actively thinking and looking inside and outside of Canada – indeed, outside North America – for the best solutions to these same questions. With our unique understanding of the industry, we want to work with them to help evaluate and implement a project like this.

New Brunswick’s best interests are our best interests: that’s why we’re taking a citizen-centric approach that focuses on three initiatives that we believe are key to success.

eID Solutions

As we said in the beginning of this “what if” discussion, it all begins with the notion of a secure, trusted identifier for our citizens.  What if GNB and Tech Impact partnered to create and operate a Smart Province Digital Lab in New Brunswick?  

A lab where public agencies are invited to come in and experiment with new technologies because we have the ability to uniquely identify our citizens though the myriad of government services that our citizens depend upon. With a secure ID the paper trail of records locked in cabinets across the province can be stitched together in one cohesive picture for every citizen. Imagine the increased efficiency of a system that could do that! 

In our lab these governmental departments would be given the chance to test their ideas and experiment in optimum conditions. It would be a safe place to test these ideas with cutting-edge technology. The risk to their day to day operations is removed, while allowing them to experiment with a level of service we can only dream of when you’re standing in line at Service New Brunswick, or moving through a lengthy procedure of referrals and appointments.

Open Data

The argument for open data is not purely about government transparency and finding out what’s going on behind closed doors: for us, open data is about recognizing that we have a resource that we could be using, but aren’t. The 2013-2014 Big Data Conferences hosted by T4G showed us that we have reams of data we could be refining into a high-quality resource that will benefit everyone from government agencies to communications specialists to medical research.

Making high-quality, anonymous information available to industries that can use it to improve our quality of life? That’s open data for us.  There are so many solutions hidden within this new natural resource we call data.  Let’s not abdicate our responsibilities as citizens to help governments uncover these solutions. But before we can do that, the data needs to be made accessible.

Product Accelerator

This is about a physical and digital space where new ideas are imagined, created, developed, tested, piloted, and launched in a collaboration between the provincial government, citizens of New Brunswick, businesses, and the tech industry.

 The accelerated delivery of new products and services to the public can be achieved when we remove the siloed approach to delivery of government services.  We waste precious time and resources funding the same innovation under different roofs – by encouraging strategic l partnerships, we will see changes happen faster, and with greater oversight.

Companies and governments around the world are vying to develop electronic identification systems: the opportunity to develop a system for New Brunswickers isn’t simply business as usual, but rather an opportunity to develop new ways to deliver services to citizens in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

It’s also a lucrative chance to develop intellectual property here at home.

We believe in moving forward, while staying true to who we are. That’s why TechImpact is working towards a Made In New Brunswick solution.  A solution we can be proud of and showcase to the world.

We recall a phrase once used by an iconic New Brunswick company.  “Come to work every day and think of ways to do everyday things better, every day”. 

This is what your government wants to do for you, and we’ll be there to help.

Government Can Help Advance New Brunswick’s Innovation Agenda

What does the East Coast of Canada look like a generation from now? Will all the dour predictions of fiscal and demographic cliffs come true? Or will we see an economy and a region transformed by the opportunities technology offers?

At TechImpact, we believe that in the future we will live in a region where our economy thrives and where meaningful and fulfilling jobs are plentiful.

So what does it take to get to that happy future? Action.

We need to take action to carve out the future we want for our children and ourselves. We need to put plans in place now, right now, to make tomorrow better than today. Instead of being timid or fearful of change, we need to boldly take advantage of the opportunities technology offers.

We need ask “what if”. 

Here is a good “what if” challenge. What if New Brunswick established a secure, safe, reliable, trusted electronic identification (eID) for every citizen? An eID would give every citizen a unique identifier to manage their interactions with government – things like health records, car registration, voting, education and more.

It’s been done successfully in other parts of the world. What is stopping New Brunswick from setting up one here?

The benefits from an eID are clear:

  • Streamlining delivery and reducing the cost of government services

  • Cost effectively managing medical records and improving health outcomes

  • Improving citizen access and engagement with government

  • Introducing new ways to deliver education

  • Increasing voter participation

  •  Creating new entrepreneurial opportunities

Today we do so much online – from banking to buying to social networking. Why wouldn’t we do the same for more government services? New Brunswick was once a leader in online service delivery when the provincial government launched Service NB. Now is the time to take the next logical step.

With an eID we would reduce the cost of all government services by simply shifting delivery from “in line” to online. An eID would increase the quality and accessibility of services so that a citizen could access public services from anywhere, at any time, on any device.

To move the eID and other digital initiatives forward, we propose the creation of a made-in-New Brunswick Lab dedicated to innovation and creativity in the public sector.  Look back to when NBTel created such a lab in the 1990s and quickly became a world leader in digitizing and modernizing telecommunications companies.  NBTel’s commitment to innovation has paid dividends for years, including helping set the stage for the launch of successful companies like Radian6 and Q1 Labs.

With the lab in place, local technology companies will create, grow and export both their products and their knowledge.  Their head counts will grow and their revenues will grow.

The private sector ICT and startup ecosystem is growing solidly in New Brunswick. Government has its own role to play in supporting an overall agenda for innovation and economic growth.

By introducing an eID, we will create a model for other North American provinces and states to follow. These jurisdictions will flock to New Brunswick and our companies to draw upon our expertise. This is our window of opportunity. Let’s get rolling.

What’s in a name?

In recent months, we’ve thought long and hard about who we are, the work we’re doing, and what we’re doing it all for.

Through this process of discussion with our members and deliberation on our long-term goals, it became clear to us that our focus needed to be on how technology can truly transform our region’s economy. That’s why the New Brunswick Information Technology Council has evolved to become TechImpact.

Why TechImpact? It’s simple really. We are interested not just in technology, but more importantly in the positive social and economic impacts it can deliver to our society.

Technology is at the heart of tremendous transformations in the global economy, and that’s good news for our part of the world. By embracing technology in everything we do, we can become a leader. Our economy will expand, jobs will be created, our population will grow and our government will have more revenues. It becomes a virtuous cycle.

Of course, that happy future is far from guaranteed: we have to be smart and ambitious to seize this opportunity.

We have a lot of work to do as a region. TechImpact, with business leaders representing large and small businesses from across the region, is focused on five primary pillars to boost our economy:

1) Developing our Workforce

From building IT literacy into our educational system to making Atlantic Canada a welcoming place for highly-skilled immigrants, creating a stronger workforce will be key to our region’s ability to compete.

2) Celebrating our Successes

We already have some fantastic success stories, and it’s time we spread the news. By showing support for successful and innovative businesses, non-profit organizations and new government initiatives, we encourage greater leadership and help educate the public about our region’s potential.

3) Building our Businesses

We need to work with business on a day-to-day basis to build a truly strong economy. By leveraging our connections we can help create new opportunities for export and domestic procurement that can be vital to a growing business.

4) Working with Government

Advocacy work across all levels of government underpins these other efforts. By opening the lines of communication between the policy makers and the industry experts, we help our region to stay ahead of the curve. There have been some great examples of interprovincial cooperation between government and business across our region coming together to promote industry growth.

5) Fostering Innovation

Innovation is the fuel that will transform the Canadian economy. We will work to encourage increased innovation in all parts of our economy. This includes supporting increased private sector and university research and commercialization that will lead to new products or services to build companies around. Innovation is not only for the private sector; we will also encourage the development of innovative and cost-effective ways to deliver traditional public services. 

At TechImpact we are committed to being a catalyst for the creation of more beneficial alliances, more opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs, and stronger efforts to educate the public and government about the positive impact technology can have in our region.

The impact of technology on our region’s society and economy is a fact. At TechImpact, we’re here to make sure that it’s a positive one.