4
The Virtual Case Studies

The virtual case studies are the vehicles for analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the knowledge system. In the second stage of the Knowledge Assessment, the visiting "investors' agents" and experts join with a group of local experts and "stakeholders" to create a plan for each enterprise. Along the way, they identify barriers to success and suggest actions to eliminate them. The virtual case studies are focused on areas of comparative advantage of the jurisdiction, but the vanguard enterprises are selected to be somewhat more technologically advanced than those that currently exist.

Five vanguard enterprises were selected for study in PEI. These were

  1. Chitin production from lobster shells;
  2. Swine breeding;
  3. Electronic commerce;
  4. Wind turbine manufacture; and
  5. Telemedicine.
  • These vanguard enterprises were selected on the basis of eight criteria, as follows:

    • They should take account of the comparative advantages of PEI. This was reflected in the choice of chitin manufacture, swine genetics, and electronic commerce.
    • They should include an area in which PEI has demonstrated leadership in the region. Swine breeding is such an area.


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    --> 4 The Virtual Case Studies The virtual case studies are the vehicles for analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the knowledge system. In the second stage of the Knowledge Assessment, the visiting "investors' agents" and experts join with a group of local experts and "stakeholders" to create a plan for each enterprise. Along the way, they identify barriers to success and suggest actions to eliminate them. The virtual case studies are focused on areas of comparative advantage of the jurisdiction, but the vanguard enterprises are selected to be somewhat more technologically advanced than those that currently exist. Five vanguard enterprises were selected for study in PEI. These were Chitin production from lobster shells; Swine breeding; Electronic commerce; Wind turbine manufacture; and Telemedicine. These vanguard enterprises were selected on the basis of eight criteria, as follows: They should take account of the comparative advantages of PEI. This was reflected in the choice of chitin manufacture, swine genetics, and electronic commerce. They should include an area in which PEI has demonstrated leadership in the region. Swine breeding is such an area.

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    --> They should exploit the resources and human and geographical potential of the province. Chitin manufacture and swine genetics would do this. They should have potential for increasing exports. This embraces chitin manufacture, swine genetics, electronic commerce, and wind turbines. They should include enterprises dependent on information technology. This is explicit in electronic commerce and telemedicine. They should serve to strengthen existing clusters. Chitin manufacture, swine genetics, wind turbines, and electronic commerce relate to existing, successful clusters. Some of them should be based in a rural area. That would cover chitin manufacture, swine genetics, and telemedicine. They could lead to technical change and expand horizons. Swine genetics and chitin manufacture have this potential. They should include an area in a social sector. This is fulfilled by telemedicine. The case studies are summarized below. The full details are given in the appendices. Chitin Manufacture From Lobster And Crab Shells Chitin is one of two kinds of polysaccharides common in nature, which are in fact among the most abundant organic materials in nature; the other is cellulose from plants. One species of plankton alone produces 100 billion tons of chitin per year. This supply, however, is extremely dispersed, and tends to deteriorate rapidly or to chelate with other substances, changing its makeup. Historically, applications have included wastewater treatment, recovery of protein from egg wastes for animal feed, wound healing, crop protection (from fungi), glue, and color photography. The problem in higher end applications is consistency of the product owing to the variability of the feedstock and the chelating properties of chitin; every batch must be tested. The virtual case study involved a firm that would extract raw chitin, raw protein, and raw lipids from shells, and prepare refined derivatives of these. The objective was to produce high grade, reliable, quality controlled product. The list of possible applications includes such higher end products as cosmetics, surgical sutures, contact lenses, cholesterol or fat reduction, and basal material for sustained drug release. The company would enter into partnership with the lobster processing plants on the Island, which would stabilize and store lobster and crab shells during the fishing season for continuous production year round. Another potential partner is the Food Technology Center, which would carry out the research necessary to select and refine the technology for the conversion of shell material to chitin and its derivatives and for the efficient manufacture of the expected byproducts, and would provide the sophisticated testing necessary to en-

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    --> sure product quality. Diagnostic Chemicals, a leading local biochemical firm, might also play a role in the partnership. The advantages of PEI are the large quantities of lobster and crab shell available from processors, together with the high degree of structure and organization in the industry and its concentration in a few locations. The Food Technology Center and the Atlantic Veterinary College are able in principle to provide the research and technical support. In broader terms, the study explored PEI's capability to convert organic wastes to value-added products for a regional and international market. Swine Genetics Pork production is a $31 million industry in Prince Edward Island, producing about 200,000 animals per year. There are about 250 small, highly organized producers, who collectively own the two modern breeding facilities on the Island. The porcine disease burden is relatively low, and with the possibility of limiting access from the mainland, it is proposed to establish a low-disease, biosecure zone for pork production. The vanguard enterprise is designed to export low disease breeding stock to international markets in the form of 21-day-old breeding females. Longer term export opportunities include embryos, semen, and fertilized eggs; a repository of rare, valuable varieties of hog such as those used in medical research; and genetic rescue and repopulation of hogs from countries affected by disease. The broader principles apply to breeding of high quality seed stock and germ plasm in many agricultural sectors, such as potatoes, poultry, and bees, with the potential to produce more sophisticated biotechnology-based products in a biosecure environment. Electronic Commerce Electronic commerce is the name given to advertising and selling through the Internet. The World-wide Web enables businesses to reach millions of potential customers at a cost which is independent of the size of the customer base and independent of location. The virtual case study proposes a linked array of interactive, informative, and retailing Web-sites, as in a commercial mall, with the anchor site providing billing, accounting, shipping, Web-site design, electronic data interchange, electronic funds transfer, and quality assurance services to the participating merchants and the public. The suggested theme is Anne of Green Gables, and the electronic or virtual mall is intended to reach fans of Anne and of PEI worldwide, including former Islanders "away," who would visit the site, obtain information, subscribe to on-line magazines, purchase products and interact with each other and with suppliers. Particular emphasis would be placed on a core audience of young girls who are currently underserved by the Internet and by the computer software industry. The partners in the mall would be providers of retail

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    --> goods, tourism products, and cultural and literary products and services on PEI and elsewhere. The study tests the capacity of the information technology infrastructure on PEI, the availability of creative and highly trained designers and marketers, and the handling of security, quality, and intellectual property issues. Wind Turbine Manufacture The wind energy business generates $1 billion in revenues worldwide, with products ranging from 300 watt battery chargers to huge, high technology one-megawatt machines in large arrays. The vanguard enterprise would produce small machines in the range up to 15,000 watts for an off-Island, non-grid connected market, particularly remote Canadian territories and islands and for developing countries. The study tests the capability of PEI to compete in a sophisticated design and manufacturing industry for foreign and distant markets, taking advantage of the existing wind energy test site and the services offered at the Slemon Industrial Park. Telemedicine Telemedicine is the use of electronic information and communications technologies to provide and support health care when distance separates the participants. Various telemedicine services are becoming widely and even routinely used where there is disparity in the health services available to remote or disadvantaged populations. The service discussed for PEI would establish facilities at the seven hospitals and provide clinical consultation service and continuing medical education. Specifically, regularly scheduled consultation clinics would be offered in rural areas in selected specialties, such as cardiology, dermatology, allergy, endocrinology, and psychiatry, plus a series of medical education courses made available to doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals. Other lectures would be offered for patient education on diabetes, weight loss, smoking addiction, and other topics. The study explored the capability of the telecommunications infrastructure and the receptivity of professional service providers to technological innovation in their areas.