Come Play in Our Sandbox

  • Laurie
  • 2017-10-11




Gleaner Column

Chapter 10 - Come Play in Our Sandbox

For some time, Ignite Fredericton has been touting the Digital Product Development Living Lab and Innovation District, where we have packaged our assets and value props to attract investment to the region.

In our 2015 column, Innovation District was explained as a key deliverable evolving from the city’s first economic development strategy, Vision 2000, in 1992.  It was to develop a ‘knowledge corridor’ by creating a technology and research park, and leveraging assets like the universities and research and development organizations.  Today, we have over 60 R&D organizations within the Innovation District’s 2km radius, anchored by Knowledge Park, and the University of New Brunswick - outputting over 75% of the province’s university-related research.

We have further packaged these Innovation District assets into what we have coined the ‘Digital Product Development Living Lab’.  Now the concept of ‘living lab’ is not new to New Brunswick, as the former NB Tel set the pace in the early nineties as North America’s most innovative telco. They used our own backyard as a testing ground to rack up numerous firsts including voicemail, internet to the home and a fully digital switching network.

On the heels of NB Tel, the City of Fredericton took a leadership role to build its own fibre optic network, e-Novations, to ensure its citizens had access to broadband connectivity, and the required technology to grow and prosper in a new digital age. On the backbone of the network, the City also built the first, free wireless network in Canada, Fred-eZone.  Now this is old news, but foundational to where we are today with the current ‘Digital Product Development Living Lab’. As e-Novations has continued to evolve, and launch new product offerings under its GoFred brand boasting the lowest gigabit connectivity in Atlantic Canada, the city has enabled a living lab environment within our Innovation District.

Digital Product Development Living Lab

What does this all mean?  Let’s use Siemens Canada as an example of how Fredericton attracted an international company using the Digital Product Development Living Lab model. 

Energy is the currency of the future, and Siemens Canada, one of the world’s leaders in smart energy innovation - chose Fredericton for its Smart Grid Centre of Competence and R&D location.  Why? Fredericton provides the perfect mid-sized build-test-launch market for smart grid technologies.  Through the creation of the Smart Grid Innovation Network (SGIN) with NB Power as the in-market player, the University of New Brunswick with its research expertise and local entrepreneurs, Siemens is creating and testing technologies that can be scaled up for large energy markets, and scaled down for smaller customers.  Siemens was attracted to Fredericton due to our deep talent pool, culture of collaboration and entrepreneurship, and exceptional research capacity. 

To quote Robert Hardt, President & CEO of Siemens Canada, “This centre of competence is a milestone for Siemens from a global perspective, and represents our commitment to furthering research and development and deployment of smart grid technologies in Canada.  Together with NB Power, we’re creating what we are confident will be a global innovation showcase in energy efficiency.”

In Fredericton, Siemens is creating solutions for the world. To learn more, watch our video case study at:

Using this Product Development Living Lab model, we have a repeatable product, which is being used to attract and expand more innovative companies like Siemens, IBM and Forcepoint.  We are well poised for growth, employing this model in other verticals like digital health, advanced manufacturing, and value added food.  Come play in our sandbox!

Laurie Guthrie, EcD, BIS
Economic Development & Marketing Specialist
Ignite Fredericton | Knowledge Park | Planet Hatch