The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce outlines economic development opportunities in the release of a new Life Sciences Cluster Report.
By Keanin Loomis
Published February 04, 2014
The Hamilton Story is alive and real. On January 15, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce released a Regional Economic Outlook [PDF] that documented another positive year for Hamilton's economy in the face of difficult headwinds that have battered other cities in the province.
Our ability to weather the storm, and in fact post continued growth and generate growing buzz, can be attributed to the fact that the economy of Hamilton is the most diversified in all of Canada as measured by the Conference Board of Canada.
Along with the capacity we've retained from our manufacturing tradition, Hamilton's balanced economy gets strong contributions from agriculture, construction, creative and knowledge industries, education, the public sector, life sciences, health services, technology, tourism, transportation and logistics.
Among these, the largest employers in our community are found in the health service and life science sectors. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is Hamilton's single largest employer (and among the largest hospital systems in the country), St. Joseph's is a powerhouse of its own and significant research and teaching are conducted at McMaster and Mohawk.
Add up the extraordinary talent and significant institutional assets Hamilton has for health care delivery and life sciences research and we truly are in the top tier of international cities.
Given this, and the fact that life sciences are expected to remain a global growth industry, it is safe to assume that Hamilton's continued rebirth and future prosperity will be determined in large part by the steps we take now to leverage what we have cultivated in the sector.
To date, we have not fully taken advantage of Hamilton's health assets. Though the life sciences sector generates significant economic activity in this community, this has yet to materialize into a proportionate level of economic development.
There is no systematic union of businesses and institutions working to capitalize on Hamilton's wealth in health. With other regions around the world aggressively developing life sciences cluster strategies, countless chances to derive commercial value out of world-class research and technical expertise evaporate annually.
Each passing year, our window of opportunity will slowly close.
The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has just released a Life Sciences Cluster Report [PDF] that was drafted with input and contributions from dozens of key institutional and private sector stakeholders. The report focuses on the essential requirements needed for cluster-based economic development to flourish in Hamilton's life sciences sector.
It takes lessons from other regions that have been successful in attracting significant investment and generating economic growth through cluster-based cooperation. The report provides a comparative analysis of Hamilton's status at this moment of great opportunity.
By doing so, we were able to generate a scorecard and recommend a path forward. While a successful life sciences cluster in Hamilton will require long-term commitment and a lot of hard work and community coordination, the good news is that the city has an abundance of the most elusive, valued and essential preconditions required for us to get started.
We have some of the best hospital-based health research in the world occurring locally. We have a wealth of talent in the sector.
We have a burgeoning industrial base of over 300 businesses working to commercialize life science discoveries.
We have a strong foundation being put into place at HHS, St. Joe's, McMaster Innovation Park, McMaster University and Mohawk College. We are being forced to change by how the federal and provincial governments invest in research.
We have a growing self-awareness of our opportunity. And we have motivated stakeholders.
The areas that need further development are not at all insurmountable, cost-prohibitive nor duplicative of past or current efforts.
We need to continue installing necessary infrastructure and systems. We need the further development of a culture of innovation and commercialization that supports the creation of new businesses.
We need continued local, provincial and federal investment to catalyze this initiative until it becomes self-sustaining. We need to be better at celebrating our successes and in attracting venture capital.
Many essential pieces are coming together - the year of stakeholder engagement, collaboration, research and work that has gone into the drafting of this report is evidence that the necessary alignment is occurring and required commitment is building.
As a result, we believe that success in creating a vibrant life sciences cluster in Hamilton is eminently achievable if key leaders remain determined to act.
Over the course of 2014, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and the stakeholders who contributed to the report pledge to continue championing this initiative and take on the work required to advance the report's recommendations.
This article was originally published in the Hamilton Spectator on January 25, 2014.
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