City considers supporting ‘Next Step Innovations’

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SUMMERSIDE – City council is considering a new initiative that would see the development of new economic opportunities.

Matthew and Peter Brown pitched city council Tuesday on a plan that involves no financing from the city, only its support and participation.

“Next Step Innovations is just that,” Matthew Brown said. “It’s a vision. The objective of Next Steps Innovations is to identify Summerside as a ‘beta city’. A further objective is to identify Summerside and then Prince Edward Island as leaders in green economy initiatives and as the centre of entrepreneur excellence. We hope to solicit energy research and conservation activities with the private development of beta testing opportunities evolving from these efforts.”

He said the initiative involves the testing and monitoring of new prototypes to verify their operation.

“Depending on the product, companies will need an end-user, or population, that’s where we fit in,” he said. “The beta testing is often costly and time consuming. It often involves regulatory hurdles as well. Often companies have to give away or even pay to have these products tested.”

Brown said with respect to green energy projects, there is sometimes public funding or government assistance that can make the testing profitable to those who conduct the processes.

“Next Step Innovations might be thought more of as an association than a company,” he said. “It’s a group of people with business, economic and legal experience who are prepared to lend their expertise in an effort to stimulate some exciting projects and enterprises here in our city.”

He said Next Step is proposing to partner with the City of Summerside, the province and federal government agencies to stimulate economic activity.

“Prince Edward Island, in general, Summerside, specifically, sets out a number of assets that lends themselves well to this initiative,” Brown said.

He pointed to the city’s wind farm, the Summerside Electric Utility along with the state-of-the-art waste management system as strong assets.

“Next Step proposes to provide a bridge between the public and private sectors of our economy,” Brown said. “Our objective is to reduce our dependence on public sector financing. The ultimate objective will be to stimulate private sector economic growth.”

He said the program will identify private sector investment and assist entrepreneurs in accessing funding programs.

“We would like you to consider the concept,” Brown told the committee. “Next Step requires that the city embrace it. This is something the city would have to see as a part of your economic development concept.”

Peter Brown said the idea is to develop ideas.

“We’re trying to mine ideas from the community in general and take those to the market,” he said. “Prince Edward Island has a disproportionate number of entrepreneurs. It comes from our farming and fishing background. Because we are small, we have some innovative thinkers and some capabilities that are not reaching the marketplace.”

He said Next Step is looking at creating an economic development environment from the private sector aspect.

“We’re in discussion with Holland College to create an ideas think tank where the actual product is ideas and those are then sold into the community, the business community and the investment community and we leave it to them to create the jobs. We leave it to them to come up with the money. Ideas have tremendous value.”

Organizations: Holland College

Geographic location: Summerside, Prince Edward Island

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