Over the course of my career, I have been a teacher, a farmer, a business analyst, an investor, and an applied research and academic leader. I’ve come to understand that the problems and opportunities in our world are highly complex; they are multi-faceted and require multi-disciplinary responses. No single expert, company, organization, or region can tackle the large-scale economic and societal challenges we face, such as food security and climate security. Furthermore, in my view no single technology can revolutionize an industry or address persistent social problems. Rather, it takes many complementary technologies, practices and systems working together and a community of participants to produce the extraordinary leaps towards solving significant, global challenges.
Innovation Ecosystems and the Power of the Post-Secondary Sector
I’ve had a front-row seat to watch Alberta’s post-secondary institutions evolve to become engines of innovation. The innovation ecosystems operating within Olds College of Agriculture and Technology and Red Deer Polytechnic are environments that allow for industry-driven, community-oriented problem solving – all in collaboration with faculty and students. I’m passionate about the potential these ecosystems possess. Students will be exposed to next-generation, fully integrated learning, and research spaces, where opportunities for creativity and critical thinking abound. Companies will progress their knowledge and understanding for how to maximize their opportunities in fast moving industries. And more broadly, our regions will lead the province in key economic and social areas. We will attract industry (large and small), education and research partners, donors and government funders, as we lead the way in technological advancement, economic growth, job creation, and social impact.
Unlocking Central Alberta’s Innovation Superpowers
In a world that is rapidly changing, we have three choices: we can be passive to it, reactive to it, or try to get ahead of it. I see it as our role to try to stay ahead of it; to create the conditions and build the teams to allow our organizations – and by extension our region – to be pro-active and agile. In Central Alberta, I think we’ve been somewhat passive towards change and as a result, we’ve struggled to articulate our identity. We have superpowers just waiting to be unlocked – an abundance of resources, talent, and potential. But if we lack a clear understanding of how to deploy these foundational strengths in this new economy, we put ourselves at a disadvantage. Whether it is students, businesses, or governments, we must be willing to engage, collaborate and embrace uncertainty if we are to achieve our full innovation potential. My role is to enable the learning and applied research environments to support this direction and it is fundamental to Red Deer Polytechnic’s future.
Stuart Cullum is an executive leader with experience across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. He has led in academic and research leadership roles at Lethbridge College, NAIT, and at Olds College, where he was President for five years. Stuart has also served on numerous boards and committees in the agriculture, post-secondary and technology sectors. He became President of Red Deer Polytechnic in August 2022.