Commentary

An Ecosystem of Critical Infrastructure and Energy In Fredericton

Knowledge Park in Fredericton. Image: submitted.

Larry Shaw in the CEO of Knowledge Park, Ignite Fredericton, and Planet Hatch.

When we think of economic development in our province, a roadmap of milestones quickly emerges. The 1990s saw the prosperous growth of call centres and the shift to a knowledge-based economy. The early 2000s witnessed the emergence of our region as an internationally recognized Smart City, quickly followed by the rise of entrepreneurial leadership, with Fredericton being recognized as the Startup Capital of Canada in 2016. As we peer into 2020, we can see elements of what our economic opportunities, over the next decade, will be – internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), cyber security, bioscience, and energy.

Critical infrastructure investment is key and represents foundational elements from which strategic economic initiatives can be generated. Investments in this type of infrastructure must be made with utmost clarity and foresight of not just the next fiscal year, but with a vision of 20 or more years.

The development of new, and improvements to our existing infrastructure will be paramount in economic sustainability and growth for years to come. Take for example our airports, seaports, and roadways. Without the continuous movement of goods and services through these axis, our ability to compete and engage on an international scale of commercialization becomes frozen and would effectively shut us out of the global market. However, one piece of critical infrastructure underlies everything but is not always as tangible as a dock or a terminal. Powering all of this movement, is energy.

Data is the currency of the future and nowhere is that more evident than in our own backyard. The province of New Brunswick is often described as a “living lab” which is evident in many ways. The Siemens Smart Grid Centre of Competence and R&D Centre are both located in the city of Fredericton as it provides the perfect mid-sized build-test-launch market for smart grid technologies.

The University of New Brunswick’s Engineering and Computer Science Departments are critical partners in the Siemens initiatives, as well as a number of private-sector partners. Fredericton’s cybersecurity community works alongside energy innovators to safeguard some of the world’s most critical infrastructure. This type of forward-thinking, collaborative approach will be key as energy and the Internet of Things continues to converge.

When we begin to evaluate our economic development factors through strategic investments, business climate, labour resources, and critical infrastructure, we can identify a clear pattern: energy is at the forefront of almost every economic growth strategy that we are focused on today.

Therefore, energy leadership must be in place to foster innovation as it is foundational to the basic fabric of our economy. Our province needs to maintain a front row seat in research and development to be prepared and knowledgeable when taking the next step into commercialization.

NB Power plays a critical role in this agenda and revenues are required to make long-term strategic investments. They need to lead the charge in those investments to have the ability to unhinge the innovations which lie within our current infrastructure, creating job opportunities as well as a long-term and prosperous economic environment.

There are clear trends that need to be considered. Data and energy are now and forever linked as data is the new corporate IP, the new corporate goal. Our connectivity in the world is not only expanding but exploding. And to exist in a truly global marketplace means we must stay competitive.

NB Power requires the ability to modernize its infrastructure to be more flexible and responsive. A new modern digital SMART energy network will keep New Brunswick competitive in this new era. They must have the ability to be leaders in this next phase of New Brunswick’s economic development where investments will foster innovation.

Huddle publishes commentaries from groups and individuals on important business issues facing the Maritimes. These commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Huddle. To submit a commentary for consideration, contact editor Mark Leger: [email protected]