BioNB: The next 25

BioNB celebrated its 25th anniversary yesterday. As you know I am a fan of these intermediary organizations – not government, not individual firms – set up to advance the opportunities in a specific industry. When these entities are working badly all we get is a company directory, annual golf tournament, a website, maybe some tweets, the occasional special speaker. When they are working well, we can see industry transformation.

There are things that can be done far more effectively at the group level that would be hard or impossible to do at the individual firm or organization level. Further, because much of what is done is meant to benefit the group, if an individual firm or organization does it, you end up with a free rider problem: one pays, all benefit.

So I am advocating for an even stronger role for organizations such as BioNB in the years ahead in areas such as R&D, entrepreneurship support, infrastructure development, talent attraction, etc.

Infrastructure, you say? Again, if it can benefit multiple firms/organizations and there is a strong case, why not? Think about COVE’s test bed for marine instrumentation or bioreactors at the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at UCB. That infrastructure is attracting entrepreneurs from across Canada and beyond because the cost of them purchasing the infrastructure individually would be prohibitive.

There are lots of folks that believe the bioeconomy – broadly defined – will be a major driver of economic development in the years ahead as we look to address climate change, sustainability, human health and, more generally, progress as a society. There are those that think Atlantic Canada should position itself as a region to take advantage of the opportunities.

The BioNB 25th celebration was fun. Lots of good history on the organization and a taste of what’s ahead. Although there was a question on the quiz (overall I failed) that suggested the province could be self-sufficient if we went back the level of agricultural output in the 1930s. I’m not sure that is strictly correct.

I’ll be watching to see what’s next for BioNB.

With a strong intermediary we stand a much better chance of success than without.