No Tech Firm Left Behind
December 31, 2015

No Tech Firm Left Behind

Through various programs, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance helps the nation's innovators stay on the cutting edge in real time

by Stephanie Vozza at Advantage Magazine

"We can't predict what is going to come in as an opportunity, but when you make a statement to the marketplace about who you are, the marketplace helps build the business for you." — John Reid, CEO

With companies as diverse as Hootsuite, Blackberry, Celtx, and others, Canada remains a major player in the international tech market, even as some of the country's businesses find themselves pushed and pulled by the typical booms and busts of the sector. Strength in numbers makes surviving such cycles easier, though, and that's exactly the point of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA).

The association finds opportunities for its member tech businesses and grows their revenues while helping to foster the overall collaborative brainpower of Canada's innovators, commercializers, and professionals along the way.

"We have two key goals," says John Reid, who has served as CATA's CEO for 27 years. "Our macro goal is to advance Canada's ranking as an innovation nation. We work with cities, mayors, and other officials to boost innovation rankings, which are rooted in our communities. Our micro goal is to supply resources and conditions so that each of our members can be competitive."

CATA's work makes it the go-to agency for advocacy, commercialization, market research, networking, events, and professional development in the tech field in Canada. And through the association's Innovation Nation program, member companies' CEOs are coming together to further the development of the Canadian high-tech environment.

"When companies want something done, we are the place that can help," Reid says. "For example, we have been leading the adoption of crowd funding in Canada. If it's happening within a global context, then it's a campaign that CATA should launch."

Formed by Canadian entrepreneurs, CATA grew out of a need for Canadian high-tech organizations to have a voice in government. The idea was to have one face, one set of ideals, and a catalogue of capabilities. Eighty percent of CATA members are exporters, and thanks to the organization's work, they can now pursue more global investment and partnership opportunities than ever before.

The speed at which companies adopt various technologies –particularly digital ones– is increasing, so CATA works at a fast pace, launching its lobbying campaigns in real time. "We turn the tap on when an issue arises, and we turn it off when the issue has been dealt with," says Reid, whose varied background in international relations, literature, and economics offers him a global perspective on business, technology, and the economy.

For example, CATA recently held a call to discuss the use of bandwidth in Canada. This led to a campaign that allocated bandwidth to first responders so that they could talk to one another at fire and crisis locations. The organization also continues to advocate for cloud-computing technology in Canada, and through its advocacy, it has pushed the Canadian government to adopt a cloud-first approach to its Shared Services business model.

To be a more successful advocate, CATA has integrated with the nation's higher-education community, with offices located on campus at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business. "Having thought leadership behind our advocacy is a plus," Reid says. "We have a pool of executives drawn from the faculty. We think, in addition to being able to affect issues in real time, these are the attributes of what a business society needs to be relevant to the marketplace."

CATA also assists with the beta testing of new technologies, including, recently, an innovative conference-call platform with a cloud service, designed by a company called iotum. "We're looking for people who are changing the game," Reid says. "We work with them and recognize them for changing methodology for the better–whether that's making things that add power or save money."

As technology continues to grow and change, so does CATA. Reid has many future initiatives planned for the organization, including work on its shared-services resources. But he also likes to wait and see what comes to him. "We can't predict what is going to come in as an opportunity," he says. "But when you make a statement to the marketplace about who you are, the marketplace helps build the business for you."