TechTalk Blog
The Globe and Mail Reports: Industry awaits Ottawa's high-tech plan

Written by: Shawn McCarthy
Globe and Mail

On a mid-May evening, Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined Industry Minister Tony Clement and 15 chief executives from Canada's largest technology companies for dinner in a private room of the 6th-floor restaurant in Parliament Hill's Centre Block.

The guests included Nortel Networks Ltd.'s boss, Mike Zafirovski, and Research In Motion Ltd.'s co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis – though there was no talk at the supper table of Nortel's court-supervised bankruptcy.

Nor was there any mention of RIM's desire to purchase key Nortel wireless assets, an objective that sparked a nationalist backlash this week after U.S. and Ontario courts approved the sale to Sweden's Telefon AB LM Ericsson of Nortel's wireless division for $1.1-billion.

Instead, the CEOs discussed with Mr. Harper and his Industry Minister how Canada's information and communication technology (ICT) sector can help propel the country's emergence from the recession, and sustain its prosperity in an increasingly competitive global economy. And Mr. Clement had a bold commitment for his dinner guests: He would produce an overarching plan by the end of the year to reverse a long slide in Canada's technology industry and make it the world's leading digital economy.

Few stories have underscored those declining fortunes more starkly than the dismantling of Nortel. But Canada has not only lost its leading high-tech multinational; it has also failed in recent years to keep up with major competitors in embracing technology as a force for economic growth. With the exception of RIM, no new major Canadian tech champions have developed. Canada is lagging the leading countries in promoting business innovation through adoption of technology. And we are falling behind in deploying digital infrastructure, such as state-of-the-art high-speed Internet and e-commerce systems that buttress an innovative society.

Those failures undermine the productive strength of the economy – making companies less competitive in the long run. They keep Canada trapped as a producer of commodities and branch-plant manufactured goods. As a result, there are fewer high-paying jobs in value-added sectors of traditional industries, and in the service sectors that support them.

Canada's best and brightest migrate elsewhere for opportunity, while workers see their incomes undermined by more competitive producers in other countries. In the end, the country is poorer.

“Our competitiveness depends on, in part, early adoption of ICT, and in today's day and age, it depends on having a competitive and thriving digital economy,” Mr. Clement said in an interview this week.

Homegrown champions

Mr. Clement said the government recognizes that Canada needs successful, homegrown companies that can bring innovative technologies to the global marketplace and add some high-tech heft to the broader Canadian economy.

“When you look at successful economies that have moved up the value chain, ICT is part of what they have.”

Past governments have made similar promises and, while there has been progress in specific areas, none managed to instill the required dynamism and innovative spirit into the country's corporate culture.

Ottawa has signalled some components of the plan. It is examining how to use its powerful procurement budget to stimulate business innovation – an “all government” approach. It has increased financing for a little-known but highly regarded program to boost technology adoption among small businesses. And it is studying federal R&D tax credits to determine how best to deliver tax benefits to research-oriented firms.

The government's critics say its public embrace of the high-tech sector is mere posturing from Conservative politicians who have slammed past government financing for the high-tech sector, cut funding for some high-profile research projects and failed to muster a rescue plan for Nortel.

For many critics, the auction of Nortel's assets suggests the Harper government simply doesn't believe it should intervene to promote high-tech champions. Those multinational not only create knowledge-based jobs directly, but they also act as anchors for technology clusters, providing a market for smaller Canadian suppliers and spinoffs as former employees launch their own startups.

RIM's Mr. Lazaridis and his co-CEO Jim Balsillie argued that Ottawa should back national players when they called on the government to block the sale of key Nortel assets to foreign companies. In the aftermath of RIM's public denunciation, former Nortel president Robert Ferchat said the high-tech sector “seems to confuse” the government.

Liberal industry critic Marc Garneau said he expects the government will make noises about support for the sector, but do very little.

“The Conservative government looks at everything through a political lens,” said Mr. Garneau, a former astronaut and president of the Canadian Space Agency who is working on the Liberal Party's innovation platform ahead of an election that could come as early as the fall.

“There is a important role for government [in building an innovative economy], but this Harper government has no plan for the high-tech sector,” Mr. Garneau said. “Everything is focused on letting market forces take their course.”

Searching for a strategy

The executives who gathered in the parliamentary dining room were unsure of the government's commitment to their industry, especially given the attention it paid to the failing auto sector, and its relative silence regarding Nortel.

In mid-May, Ottawa was finalizing its massive intervention in the auto sector, along with the Ontario and U.S. governments. Canada's $3.8-billion bailout of Chrysler LLC had been announced two weeks earlier, and Mr. Clement was in the final stages of negotiating a $11-billion rescue plan for General Motors of Canada Ltd.

But high-tech executives say they were pleased with the interest shown by the government, including the unexpected presence of Mr. Harper at the dinner, and Mr. Clement's determination to pursue concrete action.

“As our governments raise their heads above water after the difficulties with the auto sector, we're quite hopeful we're now going to have a coherent national strategy,” said Bernard Courtois, president of the Information and Technology Association of Canada, who attended the dinner.

Clearly, Canada has slipped in the race to harness the digital revolution to build world-beating companies and improve living standards. And after 31/2 years of Conservative minority rule, Mr. Clement concedes as much.

To get an up-to-date picture of Canada's standing, Ottawa commissioned a number of reports, including major studies from the Council of Canadian Academies, an independent think tank, and from the Science, Technology and Innovation Council, a government appointed advisory body.

The results were not encouraging. While many of the problems have been identified for more two decades – and efforts have been made to address shortcomings – Canada has witnessed a widening innovation gap with global leaders, especially the United States.

While Canada's work force is as skilled as the American labour force, labour productivity in the Canadian business sector has fallen to 76 per cent of U.S. levels in 2007 from 90 per cent in 1984, says a report from the Council of Canadian Academies, which represents the scientific and engineering communities.

Corporate investment on information and communications technology – a key driver of productivity growth – is about 60 per cent of U.S. levels as a percentag
e of company revenues, while business spending on in-house R&D has consistently fallen below average of industrialized countries.

One key reason for that R&D weakness is the dearth of homegrown multinationals like Nortel and Research In Motion. Those companies are the most likely to engage in product innovation and research and development.

Structural problems

Council president Peter Nicholson said much of the country's productivity problem arises from structural factors that inhibit investment – the reliance on resource industries, the small domestic market that lacks competition in key sectors and the branch plant structure that dominates Canada's economic landscape.

But those structures are shifting as Canadian commodity producers face global competition and environmental pressures, as global competition from emerging markets increases, and as revolutionary advances in ITC, life sciences and advanced materials create new opportunities.

Governments around the world are realizing they have an important role to play in encouraging innovation in their economies, but business leaders are ultimately responsible, said Mr. Nicholson, who advised former Liberal finance minister and prime minister Paul Martin.

“Some of the attitudes and habits of the past are going to have less sway in the future, and both the challenges and opportunities of the new economy are all conspiring to make Canadian business much more concerned about innovation,” he said.

“Government has got a really important role in waxing the surf board, but you need to have the wave,” he said.

So how can governments encourage the growth of high-tech companies and the diffusion of innovation across the economy? Especially when Ottawa is forecasting a $50-billion deficit this year.

When the recovery picks up steam, the federal government will be looking to roll back much of the stimulus spending the Conservatives announced in their last budget, which was supported by the Liberals. That budget included $225-million to accelerate deployment of high-speed Internet to rural areas, $500-million for electronic health records, $200-million for a program that advises and helps finance small business to adopt new technology, and money for research infrastructure at universities as well as financing for the Business Development Corp. to provide early stage finance for small businesses, including tech firms.

But much of that spending expires in three years.

High-tech executives and advisory panels say the government needs to take a government-wide approach to innovation that would include its own procurement policies. They urge long-term commitments to digital infrastructure, efforts to boost venture capital funding, a revamped and refundable science research and experimental development (SR&ED) tax credit, and an emphasis on higher education and loosened immigration rules for knowledge workers.

This week, Mr. Harper travelled to the rural Beauce region on Quebec's south shore to announce the rollout of the rural broadband strategy, saying high-speed Internet access has become an essential ingredient in a modern economy. The industry association argues that the rural strategy should be just a start – that Canada needs to take a leadership position in the deployment of a next-generation, higher-capacity system.

Digital economy

Mr. Clement followed up his Parliament Hill dinner with a one-day forum on the digital economy last month. The keynote speaker, Ottawa-based consultant Wayne Gudbranson, urged both government and industry to aggressively pursue another key building block in the country's digital infrastructure: e-health (the use of technology to improve productivity in the health sector through electronic records) and digital communications.

Mr. Gudbranson is chief executive office at Ottawa-based Branham Group, which tracks the performance of Canada's domestic and foreign-owned ITC companies. Despite recessionary setbacks, he suggests the sector is thriving and estimated its overall revenue growth at 18 per cent last year. He added that it is poised to take off with an economic rebound, particularly if Canada seizes the enormous opportunities that confront it.

The e-health sector provides a clear example of the virtuous circle that happens when governments commit to digital infrastructure.

Canada already boasts some leading e-health providers, companies such Telus Corp.'s Telus Health; xwave, a division of Halifax-based Bell Aliant; and Nightingale Informatix Corp. of Markham. Ont. An aggressive strategy of building out the e-health system would provide them with a solid domestic base from which to launch a global marketing effort.

“We have a perfect opportunity to combine our ICT knowledge and our state-of-the-art health care system, and take a leadership role in that area,” Mr. Gudbranson said. “And that could be very much a part of a digital economy strategy.”

Shortage of talent

One key constraint on Canada's pursuit of the digital revolution is the lack of talent – the shortage of skilled ICT professionals that persists even in recessionary times.

Xerox Canada CEO Kevin Warren attended the ITAC dinner and spoke at Mr. Clement's one-day “digital economy” forum. His top priority: The sector needs a diverse, highly skilled work force to be able to grow.

Xerox Corp., which consistently spends 5 per cent of revenue on R&D, maintains one of the largest corporate R&D efforts in Canada at its Mississauga research centre. The Xerox research centre employs 120 scientists and engineers from 39 different countries.

Mr. Warren has spoken with Mr. Clement several times about the need to both nurture homegrown professionals and also attract the best and brightest from around the world. “Diverse talent and key talent really does drive innovation,” Mr. Warren said. “We've found that when you bring together people from around the world [who have] different cultures, different ways of thinking, there's a synergy that is far greater than when you don't have that sort of diversity.”

Canada's corporate culture, meanwhile, has been widely criticized for its uninspired leadership. The Council of Academies and the Conference Board of Canada have argued that business strategy must change, or government efforts will fall short.

The demise of Canada's long-reigning national high-tech champion is a stark reminder that success in the global marketplace can never be taken for granted. And the industry is looking to Ottawa for leadership.

 

VITP embarks on new BC Hydro program

The Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) will utilize real-time energy monitoring to increase its energy efficiency thanks to BC Hydro’s new Continuous Optimization program. The energy management software will be provided by West Vancouver’s Pulse Energy.

Through the program, which aims to improve the operating efficiency of older commercial buildings, the company will also receive a comprehensive energy audit.

"This program will help our facilities reduce energy consumption by an estimated seven per cent," said Dale Gann, VITP president. "Our goal is to be a leader in energy efficiency and we are pleased to be working towards that goal with help from Pulse Energy, a B.C.-based technology company."

New digital meters will replace existing meters at the technology park and will provide data on energy use every 15 minutes to help building operators determine whether energy consumption is on or off target.

"The Technology Park has made an ongoing commitment to make real improvements in their energy efficiency. This has made them ideal partners for this innovative project," said David Helliwell, Pulse Energy co-founder. "Pulse software will enable the Technology Park to reduce their energy use by automatically alerting operations personnel of energy-wasting anomalies."

"Over time, buildings do not operate as optimally as they should and use more energy than they should to satisfy occupant comfort and lighting requirements," said Lisa Coltart, executive director of Power Smart & Customer Care, BC Hydro. "However, this can be fixed through the implementation of low-cost changes and those are the opportunities we hope to help building operators identify through this program."

The program is open to facilities larger than 50,000 square feet. Companies that participate are provided with energy management software and an energy audit and must agree to complete and fund any retrofits that fall within a two-year payback period.

VITP embarks on new BC Hydro program

The Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) will utilize real-time energy monitoring to increase its energy efficiency thanks to BC Hydro’s new Continuous Optimization program. The energy management software will be provided by West Vancouver’s Pulse Energy.

Through the program, which aims to improve the operating efficiency of older commercial buildings, the company will also receive a comprehensive energy audit.
“This program will help our facilities reduce energy consumption by an estimated seven per cent,” said Dale Gann, VITP president. “Our goal is to be a leader in energy efficiency and we are pleased to be working towards that goal with help from Pulse Energy, a B.C.-based technology company.”

New digital meters will replace existing meters at the technology park and will provide data on energy use every 15 minutes to help building operators determine whether energy consumption is on or off target.

“The Technology Park has made an ongoing commitment to make real improvements in their energy efficiency. This has made them ideal partners for this innovative project,” said David Helliwell, Pulse Energy co-founder. “Pulse software will enable the Technology Park to reduce their energy use by automatically alerting operations personnel of energy-wasting anomalies.”

“Over time, buildings do not operate as optimally as they should and use more energy than they should to satisfy occupant comfort and lighting requirements,” said Lisa Coltart, executive director of Power Smart & Customer Care, BC Hydro. “However, this can be fixed through the implementation of low-cost changes and those are the opportunities we hope to help building operators identify through this program.”

The program is open to facilities larger than 50,000 square feet. Companies that participate are provided with energy management software and an energy audit and must agree to complete and fund any retrofits that fall within a two-year payback period.

For more information, please go to:
www. PulseEnergy.com
www.bchydro.com
www.vitp.ca

Media Contacts:
Av Hundle                                                David Helliwell                                  Simi Heer
VITP                                                        Pulse Energy                                    BC Hydro, Media Relations
ahundle@vitp.ca                                       david@PulseEnergy.com                    simi.heer@bchydro.com
c. 250.812.6446                                       c. 604.761.3434                                c. 604.375.2746
o. 250.483-3228                                       o. 604.926.5659                               o. 604.623.3963

VITP Welcomes International Hydropower Company

The Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) is pleased to welcome Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd as its newest tenant. Gilkes has opened its first Canadian-based office at VITP to better serve the hydropower markets of North America.

“I would like to congratulate Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd for their efforts in establishing their first Canadian-based office at VITP,” said Dale Gann, President of UVic’s Technology Parks.  “This announcement further demonstrates that Victoria can be considered an ideal location for international hi-tech companies to either relocate or expand into.”

Gilkes is considered a world leader in small hydropower systems for the generation of electricity from water.  In its 156 year history, Gilkes has supplied over 6500 turbines to over 80 countries.  Additionally, Gilkes manufactures a range of sophisticated pumps for the cooling of diesel engines and supply many of the world’s major diesel engine manufacturers.  Today, Gilkes employs 130 people in Japan, United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

Government of Canada invests in upgrading the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney

 On behalf of the Honourable Gail Shea,Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the  Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of State for Sport and Member of Parliament  for Saanich-Gulf Islands, today announced over $2.8 million in funding, over  the next two years, to undertake needed repairs, maintenance work and  infrastructure upgrades at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney. 
   
     "Our Government recognizes the Institute of Ocean Sciences as crucial to 
 ocean and fisheries science in Canada, and a major contributor to our local 
 economy," said Minister Lunn. "Today, I'm pleased to announce funding that 
 will enhance the efficiency of its operations, and bring economic stimulus to 
 Sidney and British Columbia." 
   
     The Institute of Ocean Sciences is an important link in the Department of 
 Fisheries and Oceans' nationwide chain of major scientific facilities, and the 
 centre for research on the coastal waters of British Columbia, the 
 Northeastern Pacific Ocean, the western Canadian Arctic and navigable fresh 
 waters extending from the West Coast of Canada east to the Alberta border. 
     The Institute also houses the Pacific Geoscience Centre of Natural 
 Resources Canada, the main centre in western Canada for monitoring and 
 research on earthquakes. 
   
     The funding is part of a $250 million commitment in Canada's Economic 
 Action Plan designed to accelerate investment over the next two years to 
 modernize federal facilities across the country. This funding announcement is 
 one of the many job-creating investments being provided under Canada's 
 Economic Action Plan. 
   
     Funding includes $1.1 million in 2009-10 and $1.7 million in 2010-11 for 
 building repairs and upgrades, including updating plumbing and electrical 
 systems and improving insulation and heating systems, to support enhanced 
 efficiency and the continued operation of the Institute of Ocean Sciences. 
Soapbox derby at Vancouver Island Technology Park boosts B.C. Cancer Foundation

It has a black nose, four wheels and yellow feathers. Oh yes, and it used to go by the name “Batmobile.”

Camosun College's “canary-themed” soapbox derby car was just one of 13 stylish competitors (Carmanah Technologies also had a canary bird theme racer) at this year’s Canary Derby benefiting the B.C. Cancer Foundation. The race is organized by the Canary Foundation of Canada and challenges Victoria and Vancouver’s high-tech communities to design and build the fastest soapbox racer. (Carmanah Technologies also had a canary bird theme racer).

This year’s race, held Sunday afternoon at Vancouver Island Technology Park in Saanich, raised $129,000, organizers said.

“I glued every single one of those feathers on that thing myself,” said April Atkins of the mechanical engineering technology department at Camosun College, pointing to the faculty’s yellow derby car. The same soapbox was used in last year’s competition, minus feathers and painted black, hence the name “Batmobile.”

George Foldes, assistant engineer and co-chief of Vifor Pharma’s soapbox derby team, said the friendly but fierce competition at the race is part of the fun. His team’s car, jokingly referred to by his wife as “the mistress” — because of the amount of time the members spent away from their families to build it — had at least 100 hours of labour put into it.

Teams from Vancouver and Victoria are particularly competitive with each other, according to Peter Hudson, an engineer who works for Vancouver-based Aquatic Informatics. Immediately after his race, he joked that the reason Victoria cars tend to be better “speaks to the fact that some people maybe have too much time on their hands.”

“Last year, we built our derby car from a kit and didn’t do so well,” said Hudson. “Our CEO said: ‘Do faster next year or you’re all fired!’ ” So this year, the team spent more than 200 hours designing and building their electric-blue car, lovingly referred to as “the beast.”

Despite the fact that it’s a competition, all participants say there is a definite sense of community in soapbox racing.

This was demonstrated Sunday, when the other soapbox derby car designed by Camosun College swerved to avoid hitting a child who had stepped onto the track, flipped and crashed into an electrical box on the sidewalk.

“After I swerved, I saw a flash of a fire hydrant, the curb, and then I shut my eyes,” said the driver Jeff Stephens, who was unhurt but shaken.

Immediately, competitors from all of the teams ran toward the car, helping Stephens out. He was then given high-fives and hugs from his teammates and competitors alike, who all appear genuinely concerned.

“We really do look out for each other,” said Foldes. He points to previous year’s competitions, where teams have lent tools to one another for last-minute repairs, as evidence of this.

This year’s cars introduced a number of new technologies in soapbox racing, including the Camosun College vehicle that Stephens had been driving. The derby car was completely enclosed, had no windows, and small cameras attached to the exterior. Stephens wore special glasses inside the car, which allowed him to see what the cameras were recording in front.

This year was the fourth year that the Canary Foundation has held the race, which requires each team to raise donations in order to compete. The foundation organizes two races: one in Vancouver and one in Victoria. Last year, they raised more than $140,000 for the B.C. Cancer Foundation in Victoria alone. This year, they hope to raise $250,000 in the two cities combined.

New Imaging Equipment Helps UVic Researchers

How do drugs know where they’re needed to do their job in the human body? The University of Victoria-Genome BC Proteomics Centre is closer to being able to provide an answer to that complex question thanks to more than $620,000 in funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada.

The grant is paying for new technology that will allow scientists to see two-dimensional images of drugs travelling within the tissues of the body and to track how that tissue reacts to medication and to the environment.

"We're delighted to have this support,” says Dr. Howard Brunt, UVic’s vice-president research.  “It provides UVic students and researchers with the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology and ultimately influence human and environmental health.”

Tissue imaging using Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization technology, known as MALDI imaging, will aid in mapping the chemical reactions of the human body. This new imaging technique will lead to more rapid and accurate diagnosis of patients and more effective treatments.

MALDI imaging allows for two-dimensional spatial resolution of proteins and small molecules in tissue. In this technique, a thin slice of tissue is placed onto a MALDI target plate and coated with a matrix. The plate is then placed into a mass spectrometer and data is acquired under a fine laser beam. The result is a two-dimensional optical image of the tissue slice that shows the distribution patterns of proteins, peptides, lipids and drugs at the molecular level.

“This new instrumentation will allow us to explore further into human health states, disease development and treatment efficacies,” says Proteomics Centre Director Dr. Christoph Borchers. “Working with collaborators we will transform molecular images into proteomic and metabolomic information. This will be used to develop a 4-D virtual reality atlas of the human body and improve a clinician’s ability to diagnose and treat disease. Of particular interest is the diagnosis of specific heart diseases that are currently very challenging to accurately diagnose.”

The new technology may well help researchers determine the pathways drugs take in the human body and how they react chemically at the locations they reach. This would aid with the diagnosis and treatment of hundreds of illnesses as well as with the development of new, more effective pharmaceuticals. For more information visit www.proteincentre.com/services/maldi-imaging.

 

—30—

Media Contacts:

Jennifer Reid (Project Manager, UVic- Genome BC Proteomics Centre) at 250-483-3222 or Jreid@proteincentre.com

Maria Lironi (UVic Communications) at 250-721-6139 or lironim@uvic.ca

 

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available at communications.uvic.ca/media

 

BACKGROUNDER

 

MALDI IMAGING AT THE UVIC PROTEOMICS CENTRE

The University of Victoria- Genome BC Proteomics Centre, a not-for-profit entity, is a state-of-the-art proteomics research and service laboratory located at UVic’s Vancouver Island Technology Park in Victoria.

The term ‘proteomics’ (its root a combination of PROTEin and genOME) designates the specific study of proteins, particularly how they’re built (structure) and what they do (function). Proteins are highly complex nitrogen-containing compounds found in all animal and vegetable tissues. They are made up of amino acids and are essential for growth and repair in the body.

Established in 1982, the centre is the longest operating proteomics core facility in Canada, serving academia, industry and government, both collaboratively and on a fee-for-service basis.

The laboratory is supported by a collaborative relationship between Genome BC and UVic. The centre offers a wide array of services in addition to MALDI imaging, including biomarker discovery and validation, and comprehensive metabolomics profiling. It currently houses more than $10 million dollars in cutting-edge analytical equipment and is the largest lab of its kind in Canada.

Vigil Health Solutions Reports 4th Quarter and Annual Results

Vigil Health Solutions Inc. (“Vigil”) announces the results of operations for the fiscal year (FY09) and the fourth quarter (Q4FY09), ending March 31, 2009.

“We are pleased to report positive Adjusted Operating Income in each of the last two quarters of the fiscal year.  We also happy to report strong revenue growth again this year especially given the weak state of the economy in Canada and the USA.  These results underscore the strength of our business model which serves the growing community of senior citizens which will continue to expand steadily over the long term.”  stated Troy Griffiths, President & CEO, Vigil Health Solutions.

Business highlights

·         Increased revenue 50% to $4.51 million from $3.00 million in FY08 and a 92% increase in revenue for Q4FY09 compared to Q4FY08

·         Secured two consecutive quarters of positive Adjusted Operating Income in Q3 and Q4

·         Achieved positive cash from operating activities for the current fiscal year. 

·         Completed 50 projects in FY09 compared to 34 in FY08, an increase of 47%

·         Product and Feature Releases:

o        New wireless products and processes to improve efficiency and quality of installations as well as subsequent service and support particularly in large multi-storey facilities.

o        Developed new products to meet state and regional requirements including hardwired multicoloured corridor lights previously only available for the wireless system and a duty station device with audible notification.

o        Improved Vigil Remote to include compatibility with Microsoft Terminal Server enabling integration with customer's existing information technology configurations.

o        Latest software release, Vigil Locate, displays the location of select devices in a graphical/map format developed to facilitate improved customer response times.

 

Financial Results

Bookings for FY09 were solid at $4.38 million compared to $4.38 million in FY08.  Sales bookings for the quarter were also solid at $1.14 million compared to $1.12 million in the Q4FY08.  Management believes the overall flat bookings are the result of the significant downturn in the US (and global) economy most notably during the last two quarters of the fiscal year.  This macro-economic situation has resulted in a lack of funding for the development of new senior housing projects.

At March 31, 2009 Vigil had a backlog of approximately $3.56 million (including $1.65 million in deposits and progress billings, recorded as deferred revenue on the balance sheet) as compared to $3.45 million (including $1.12 million in deposits and progress payments, recorded as deferred revenue on the balance sheet) at March 31, 2008.

Revenue for FY09 was $4.51 million compared to $3.00 million in FY08, an increase of 50%. This revenue resulted from the commissioning of 50 projects in fiscal 2009 (compared to 34 in fiscal 2008).  The increase in revenue reflects the growth in sales bookings seen in prior periods. In addition, one off sales, and service and maintenance revenue grew by 41% to $612 thousand. Revenue for Q4FY09 was $1.53 million compared to $796 thousand in Q4FY08.  The 93% increase in revenue in the quarter was primarily attributable to an increase in the average value of the installations, from $66 thousand to $96 thousand and the completion of 14 installations in Q4FY09 compared to 10 in Q4FY08. 

The gross margin percentage for FY09 was 43% compared to 45% for FY08, in line with management’s expectations of annual margins of between 42% and 47%.  Gross margin for the fourth quarter was below expectations at 40% compared to 39% in Q4FY08, due to a number of large installations completed for corporate clients where the product mix resulted in a lower margin.

Expenses for FY09 were $2.38 million, up 6% from $2.22 million in the prior year.  The increase can be primarily attributed to increased general and administration costs including insurance costs, payroll, and telephone costs, all in support of the Company’s growth.  Expenses were $605 thousand in the fourth quarter, down 10% compared to $669 thousand in the prior year.  This decline relates primarily to a decrease in sales and marketing expenses from $254 thousand in the last quarter of fiscal 2008 to $206 thousand in the last quarter of fiscal 2009.  This was mainly due to lower fiscal year end commission bonus payments to the sales department in fiscal 2009 compared to fiscal 2008, along with decreased advertising and marketing and market research expenses.

The net loss for FY09 was $389 thousand, or $0.004 per share, compared to $973 thousand, or $0.011 per share, for the previous year.  The 60% decrease in losses is primarily attributable to the increase in revenue and maintaining stable operating expenses.  The increase in revenue and reduced expenses resulted in a 93% decrease in losses in the fourth quarter (from $331 thousand for Q4FY08 to $24 thousand in Q4FY09).

A summary of our financial performance for the year ended March 31, 2009 follows below. For further information relating to the financial results of the Company, please refer to the Company’s financial statements and MD&A filed on SEDAR at www.sedar.com or detailed financial statements available on the Vigil web site (http://www.vigil.com/?Investors:Financial_Statements).  Financial information will be mailed to entitled security holders on June 30, 2009. Or, upon notice to the Company, entitled security holders may request a copy of financials in advance.

BusinessWeek Runs Special Report on Research and Technology Parks

By Pete Engardio

Read the BusinessWeek Special  Report on Research and Technology Parks here.

Avison to Leave the Research Universities' Council of British Columbia

The Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia today confirmed that the Council’s president, Don Avison, will be leaving the organization in September of this year to pursue other opportunities.

“This is the best job I have ever had,” said Avison, “but the time has come to explore new challenges.” Avison was appointed President of the University Presidents’ Council of BC in 1999 and later became the first president of the Research Universities’ Council which now represents the interests of the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and the University of Northern British Columbia. 

Before joining British Columbia’s research universities Avison held many senior public service positions.  These included Deputy Minister positions in Health, Education, Advanced Education and Crown Corporations in British Columbia, the Deputy Minister of Justice in the Northwest Territories and several senior level positions with the federal Department of Justice where he was a Regional Director, General Counsel and also served as the Director General of the Aboriginal Justice Initiative.

President Stephen Toope of UBC, who also serves as Chair of RUC, said “Don Avison has been a superb leader for the Research Universities’ Council of BC, and an articulate and passionate voice for higher education in Canada.  I am sorry to see him leave, and wish him well in his future endeavors”.

The RUC will be initiating a search to replace Avison.

Information Contact:
250-480-4859