As part of our ongoing series to mark Innovation Guelph’s 10th anniversary and share stories about its past, present, and future, meet Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament for Guelph.
Mr. Longfield was a co-founder and initially part-time CEO of Innovation Guelph, sharing CEO duties with Kirk Roberts until the organization hired the first CEO. He was also a part-time mentor and volunteer board member in the first four years. Together with Kirk Roberts and Brian Cowan, he built up the original board and bylaws. “The original funding application happened from my kitchen table,” noted Mr. Longfield.
How did you come to know about IG? How did you get involved?
I was initially on the board of Guelph Partnership for Innovation. We transitioned the business plan to follow the guidelines set out for the Regional Innovation Centres (RIC) as part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs. At the time, I was also President and CAO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce. We incubated the new RIC under the financial statements of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce for the first two years until the organization was able to stand on its own.
Why is this milestone remarkable?
Like any start-up venture, the first 10 years involve making it through the stages of development from early stage to growth, and then maturity. Going through these stages enables you to share similar experiences with clients.
Thinking back on your experiences with Innovation Guelph, are there any notable stories, anecdotes, or humorous memories you can share with us?
We were having a tough time coming up with a name for the new organization. We wanted to mention innovation and represent Guelph. We had lots of ideas but went with something simple in the end. The first office was a sublease at the Guelph Business Enterprise Centre in St George’s Square.
Why is supporting innovation important to you?
Support for innovation is support for curiosity and creativity in people that at the same time develop businesses to develop communities. Canada is home to some great independent thinkers that create businesses to serve our communities in so many ways.
In your view, how has Innovation Guelph made a difference?
The creative people in Guelph’s businesses inspire me to see new possibilities. The collaboration between clients and mentors shares and grows the ideas from these amazingly creative clients.
What would you say to an entrepreneur considering getting involved with IG?
Sharing challenges and solutions help us all to learn from each other. The scars from other people are better to study than repeating things that did not work so well. Create your own set of scars.
Thinking beyond the pandemic, what do you think is ahead for innovation in Canada? What does the future hold for IG?
The pandemic has allowed us to pause the old way of doing things and develop new creative solutions. COVID19 has also made us ask ourselves, “What does building back better look like?” Organizations like Innovation Guelph help us to answer that question.
Do you have any final remarks?
We have supported our friendships by facing challenges together. Working together has strengthened us individually, as a community, and as a country. Innovation Guelph’s success story is the story of friendships.
Congratulations to the extraordinary Board of Directors, staff, and clients at Innovation Guelph on your first 10 years of community service. You’ve grown the innovation ecosystem in Guelph and expanded your vision of supporting innovation across Canada. – Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament, Guelph