By Fred Morley
On the Fourth day of Christmas
My network gave to me... the DND Christmas Party
The Christmas reception hosted by the Commander Joint Task Force Atlantic and the Commanders of Land Force Atlantic Area and Air Component Coordination Element Atlantic was held at the Bridge, at Juno Tower at CFB Halifax. The reception area of the Bridge provides one of the most commanding and panoramic views of Halifax of any building in the city. This was a good group. I would mention a few attendees but that would be name dropping and besides I don’t have clearance.
Lots of ideas at this event, including the regular stream of ideas around how to improve urban transit in Halifax. I’ve heard great ideas on this from everyone from Navy captains to neurosurgeons. Most involve steel wheel vs. rubber tire transport and many involve creative use of the CN rail cut running around from the Westend around to the Southend of the peninsula. Lots of civic engagement on this.
But tonight’s big idea connects to the Navy, the ocean and the big research capability in Halifax. Why not build the Halifax Research Horseshoe: An International Scale Concentration of Applied Research in University, Defense and Government Labs.
Halifax needs to build on its considerable research base. This is the best way to recession-proof our economy and build the high value companies and the high wage jobs we want. Other cities and nations have figured this out. It’s time for us to think this through.
Developing countries around the world recognize the virtue of research concentration. China is on the verge of overtaking both America and the EU in the quantity of its scientists and both Japan and South Korea are leading the US in R&D spending per person. China is rapidly catching up. Asia will soon be the dominant continent in R&D, surpassing Europe and North America.
Economic growth based on R&D passes the test of sustainability and durability. Just look at the cities that have prospered in the United States during the recession of 2008-09. Areas like Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, Northern Virginia and a few other high growth areas have one thing in common. They are research-led economies.
Why not take that approach in our city. We have six universities in Halifax. Dalhousie is one of the great research universities in the world and attracting over $100 million in research funding each year. We have a significant concentration of federal labs including: Defence R&D Canada – Atlantic, Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre nearby in Kentville, the world famous Bedford Institute of Oceanography, National Research Council Canada institute for Marine Biosciences, Natural Resources Canada, Geological Survey of Canada – Atlantic, and the Halifax RCMP Laboratory of Forensic Science and Identification Services.
One of the oldest and largest science parks in North America, The Research Triangle Park, was begun in the 1950s and was built on a concentration of universities and knowledge workers not that different from our own. It now has 170 companies employing over 42,000 full-time knowledge workers and an estimated 10,000 contract employees. Why not start now and build our very own research concentration here in Halifax. But let’s not do a research triangle…let's try a horseshoe shape that follows the research presence around Halifax harbour…..for luck.
Fred Morley is the Executive Vice President and Chief Economist at the Greater Halifax Partnership.