Alberta’s Peace Country is one of the most innovative regions in all of Canada.
Alberta now has more patent applications per capita than any other Canadian province.
The Peace Country, a region with only 5% of Alberta’s population, is responsible for 40%.
Area residents attribute their unique problem-solving skills to their geographic location. Historically, the isolation meant:
Despite this strong entrepreneurial spirit, the region wasn’t fully capitalizing on their innovative potential.
How do you change the culture of an entire region?
Peace Country residents are very inventive, but no one recognized that their ability to be solution-driven made them a unique region.
To get residents to embrace their skills the Peace Country searched for resources and opportunities that would provide support to inventors to help turn their weekend projects into profitable products with sustainable economic growth.
In late 2007, the Centre for Research and Innovation (CRI) was born. It was
developed out of a partnership between the Peace Region Economic Development Alliance and the Grande Prairie Regional College.
The Centre’s first goal was to provide local resources and assistance so that entrepreneurs and inventors could avoid making the six-hour trip to Edmonton to fill out papers and file for patents.
The CRI’s plan would:
How do you make innovation sustainable?
CRI represented an important step for innovation and growth in Northern Alberta, but was in need of a larger budget to enable change. The Rural Alberta Development Fund reviewed CRI’s determined plan and stepped in, providing $3.4 million in support.
CRI’s efforts are changing the way residents view their community.
Weekend coffee talk is shifting from what’s happening in the forestry, agriculture, and oil industries to what’s happening in their local businesses.
This shift has been noticed nation-wide. In 2010, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses named Grande
Prairie as the top entrepreneurial city in Canada.
What does progress look like?
One of the best examples of innovation in Peace Country is that of the Corfe family.
Phil Corfe was inspired by his father, Fred, an innovative machinist with over 50 years of problem-solving experience. Using the skills he learned from his father, Phil, his son Adam, and other family members teamed up to create a revolutionary saw that has gained international demand.
Phil is insistent that without the help of the CRI, they would still be playing around with prototypes. Instead, they’re selling their saws in international markets, like Sweden, and have sales prospects in Brazil, Chile, and Portugal.
The Corfes used the CRI’s resources to accelerate the invention and production process. They received:
This has given the Corfe family the support and advantage they needed to turn their resource-based skills and ideas into a knowledge and innovation-based livelihood.