Recently, Wavefront, Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Commercialization and Research (CECR) for wireless technology and innovation, announced the findings of its first economic impact assessment.
According to the assessment, Wavefront has generated $4.80 in economic benefits for every public dollar invested in it, and produced almost $37 million in GDP across the Canadian economy. Companies interviewed during the assessment stated that Wavefront helped accelerate their time to market by four to six months, generated new streams of revenue, and helped them save money.
“Wavefront is helping accelerate the growth of Canadian wireless companies and Canadians are reaping the benefits of a sector that already generates a total economic value of some $43 billion for the Canadian economy,” said James Maynard, President and Chief Executive Officer of Wavefront. “The insights from this assessment confirm that we are on the right track in helping Canadian wireless companies grow locally and in foreign markets.”
Wavefront’s goal is to create a national network of resources that helps Canadian wireless small and medium enterprises (SMEs) connect with each other, with resources that help them build better products, and then with international market opportunities. This has its challenges. The major one is that Wavefront is really doing something that is quite novel. The fact that Wavefront is national and is focussed on not just connecting with local companies but also helping to propel them into international markets is unique. To ensure success here, Wavefront is focussed on having the right plan to meet the needs of Canadian companies and building credibility in international markets to help connect companies.
With the support of the people of Vancouver, Wavefront grew out of an initiative by the Wireless Innovation Network Society of BC (now known as DigiBC) in 2007 to foster the collaboration of emerging wireless technology companies in British Columbia. The objective was to help local SMEs grow faster and avoid some of the points of risk (such as being acquired too early and not getting a chance to scale to their full potential) in their development.
In 2011, Wavefront received support from the federal government and became a National Centre of Excellence with a mandate to commercialize wireless innovation across Canada to generate $400 million of GDP, create 6,000 jobs and help start 150 companies in the wireless sector by 2016. Wavefront is pursuing this BHAG by supporting wireless companies in several ways:
Connecting them affordably with critical resources such as mobile device libraries, usability labs and cloud-based testing (with advanced analytics that can be run from a PC against live handsets running in Wavefront’s data centres) that they need to design and get their product to market smarter and faster.
Creating paths to market via a mentorship program with Rogers (whereby they can sell through the Rogers sales channels) Orange, Deutsche Telekom (which gives Wavefront a presence in 55 different markets) and BlackBerry (which has relationships with over 650 operators globally).
James believes that there is real opportunity for Canadian developers and industry as applications start moving into mainstream markets like mining, transportation, healthcare and energy.
“One of the largest business opportunities right now is the connected car, which is going to generate all kinds of opportunities as the car becomes a mobile device. Mobile will go from managing your personal life to integrating into the supply chains of large organizations. I expect this to create wealth for the SMEs selling these services and drive productivity, innovation and increased competitiveness into Canadian companies that adopt the technologies including machine to machine (M2M) and the internet of things.”
Wavefront has actually launched a M2M competency centre in partnership with Sierra Wireless -the world’s largest provider of M2M communications devices. As there is no one size fits all foreign market strategy, Wavefront is focusing on sector strengths in countries. For example, Europe is one of the strongest markets for transportation apps while Chile and Brazil are good for connected agriculture apps. It cooperates very closely with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) and Export Development Canada to assess a foreign market’s potential for and compatibility with the 2,800 companies it works with.