Digital Innovation Summit

June 12 - 13, 2023

It’s time to scale New Brunswick’s digital innovation movement. The McKenna Institute’s second annual Digital Innovation Summit will convene global experts, tech leaders and change-makers to define and accelerate New Brunswick’s digital future.

Keynote speakers

Chief Executive Officer at AIVITA Biomedical, Inc.

Hans Kierstead

Dr. Keirstead is an internationally recognized stem cell expert who has led therapy development for late-stage cancers, immune disorders, motor neuron diseases, spinal cord injury and retinal diseases. Before becoming CEO of AIVITA Biomedical, Dr. Keirstead founded and served as CEO for multiple companies, including California Stem Cell and Ability Biomedical. He is also the former CSO of Caladrius Biosciences.

While holding the position of Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Californiaat Irvine (UCI), Dr. Keirstead founded and directed the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, raising funds to establish its research building. In 2005, he was awarded the Distinguished Award for Research, the UCI Academic Senate’s highest honour, as well as the UCI Innovation Award for innovative research leading to corporate and clinical development.

Dr. Keirstead holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of British Columbia, for which he received the Cameron Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis Award. He conducted four years of post-Doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge. He has been a long-time advisor to several governments on biomedical policy and holds Board positions with several prominent biotechnology companies.

Director of Product Management at Instagram

Tessa Lyons

Tessa Lyons is the Director of Product Management for Instagram Home, the core consumer product on Instagram. Her teams build the products that help people connect with their friends and be entertained, like Feed, Reels and Explore.

Tessa spent three years as Business Lead to Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, and later served as the Head of News Feed Integrity. Before joining Facebook, Tessa worked at LeanIn.Org, a global community committed to empowering all women to achieve their ambitions. Tessa started her career as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, focusing on media and technology.

Tessa graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she concentrated in Social Studies and was co-president of Harvard’s largest undergraduate student organization, Women in Business. She lives in San Francisco and is a member of the board of CARE USA, a humanitarian organization that fights global poverty.


This year’s exclusive event begins with a shotgun start, a round of golf at the award-winning Algonquin golf course. Day one is about creating connections, partnerships and opportunities. Day two, in collaboration with EY, is about accelerating action, innovation and growth.

10 a.m. | Golf: Algonquin Golf Course

3 p.m. | Check-in: Algonquin Resort

4:30 p.m. | Networking Reception: Passamaquoddy Room

5:30 p.m. | Dinner: Shaughnessy Room (Sponsor: Opportunities NB)

  • Remarks from your hosts
    • Frank McKenna, McKenna Institute Benefactor
    • Adrienne Oldford, Executive Director, the McKenna Institute
    • Paul J. Mazerolle, UNB President
  • Keynote addresses: How to create a movement for change
    • Hans Keirstead, CEO – AIVITA Biomedical
    • Tessa Lyons, Director of Product Management – Instagram
    • Frank McKenna

8 p.m. | Post-Dinner Networking: Passamaquoddy Room; Carleton Rotunda

8 a.m. | Breakfast and Plenary Session

“Digital Innovation: 2023 and Beyond” – Shannon MacDonald and Claude Francoeur

The opening plenary session will set the stage for scaling a digital innovation movement in the digital age. The session will focus on a helpful framing for how we might think about digital transformation, the importance of having a digital mindset and the introduction of a unique approach to thinking about innovation in all its forms. The session will also explore the various tech cycles we have lived through and the accelerating nature in which disruptive technologies are being introduced to the ecosystem.

9 a.m. | Breakout Sessions

Session 1: “Scaling Innovation to create a movement” – Gordon Sandford (EY) and Jeff White (NBIF)

This session is designed to provide attendees with the necessary tools and insights to scale innovation and become agile in the digital age, starting from the recommended approach for creating a movement to selecting the right opportunities for innovation. Additionally, the session will highlight how leaders can effectively lead and champion innovation in the digital age, emphasizing the importance of lifelong learning, human-centered design, and comfortable challenging of the status quo. Further, it will showcase leading practices on scaling digital innovations, illustrating real-world examples of organizations that have excelled in their digital innovation endeavours.

Session 2: “Building the right ecosystem” – Claude Francoeur (EY), Adrienne Oldford (McKenna Institute) and Pierre Zundel (CCNB)

In this session, we will explore in detail how to effectively build models of collaboration together, using collective efforts to scale an ecosystem and foster innovation. Specifically, we will delve into strategies for unifying the diverse components of the current New Brunswick ecosystem, bringing them together as a cohesive whole to create a synergistic and thriving innovation ecosystem that drives growth and prosperity.

Session 3: “Roadblocks and enablers to digital innovations for the province and organizations” – Dana Ohab (EY) and Cathy Simpson (Tech Impact)

This session will explore why a critical aspect of any successful movement is understanding not only the enablers but also the common pitfalls that can hinder progress. We will take a deep dive into how to thrive and overcome impediments of digital innovation. We will also share our valuable lessons learned from real-world experiences in scaling innovation, providing practical insights and strategies for attendees to navigate challenges and drive sustainable innovation outcomes.

11 a.m. | Plenary session: “Digital innovation strategy for New Brunswick” – Shannon MacDonald

As we near the end of our program, we will provide a quick recap of all the insightful sessions that have taken place. We will then conclude with closing remarks that highlight how the topics covered in earlier sessions can be practically applied to scale the innovation movement in New Brunswick. We will explore what this means for the digital innovation strategy in New Brunswick, drawing on the valuable insights and strategies shared throughout the program to inspire and empower attendees in their future innovation endeavours.

Noon | Announcement and Closing Remarks by Frank McKenna

Breakout speakers

Breakout sessions will be led by the following inspiring senior leaders.

New Brunswick Office Managing Partner, Consulting, EY Canada

Claude Francoeur

Claude Francoeur is the Managing Partner and Market Leader in New Brunswick, managing EY’s Saint John and Dieppe offices.

He is a member of EY’s national Business Transformation Consulting practice. He brings more than 27 years of experience with EY as a financial and internal auditor and business and technology risk advisor.

For the last 17 years, Claude has led several strategic planning and business transformation programs for government and private sector clients to capture growth, enhance productivity and adapt to customer digital experience expectations.

He focuses on helping clients develop innovative strategies, manage risk and improve business performance through his strategic, financial, information technology and transformation project experience.

Claude is on the advisory board of the UNB Saint John Faculty of Business and Chair of the board of directors for the NB Economic Council. He also serves as a member of EY’s advisory Partner Forum.

Partner, Technology Transformation, EY Canada

Shannon MacDonald

Shannon MacDonald is a senior advisor to executives, an advisor on health system policy and a practice leader for EY’s multidisciplinary consulting teams. With over 32 years of professional experience, she has led significant organizational transformations in governments and health care organizations across Canada. She has an exceptional ability to bring diverse services together to create better outcomes for clients.

Shannon combines deep vertical sector knowledge and functional knowledge with a passion for teamwork and inclusion to successfully drive growth. She is an experienced global and community board member for both private companies and not-for-profit organizations.

Designated with an ICD.D, Shannon has a comprehensive track record of leading, advising and structuring board governance and the role of ethics in organizations and professions. She is Chair of the Atlantic Women's Venture Fund, where she supports the inclusion of women in the startup community, the venture investment community and angel fund networks.

Associate Partner, Digital and Emerging Technology, EY Canada

Dana Ohab

Dana is a senior technology leader with significant private and public sector experience. She is passionate about connecting digital innovation and business strategies to drive transformation in technology, processes, data and people. She brings together EY resources and establishes strong partnerships to incubate, scale and operationalize functions.

Recognized as a results-driven, customer-centric technology thought leader, Dana takes products and capabilities from concept to business outcome to drive value for customers, employees and shareholders.

Partner, Digital Transformation, EY Canada

Gordon Sandford

Gordon Sandford is a national partner for Digital Transformation and Future Ready Workforce/Lifelong Learning at EY with over 29 years’ experience at the intersection of business and IT. He launched a national digital offering several years ago and has been leading these efforts nationally ever since.

Gordon delivers business, IT and digital transformation strategies by empowering companies to transform their organizational mindset, culture, leadership, ways of working, capabilities and operating models, taking them from “doing digital” to “being digital.”

Gordon loves working with leaders and their teams on digital strategy, digital operations, digital delivery, customer experience, innovation, user-centred design, business and IT alignment, IT strategy and planning, value attainment, enterprise architecture and business operations.


Jeff White

Jeff White is NBIF’s lead visionary. He’s a technology industry veteran and a seasoned corporate financing expert. He has worked with some of our region’s biggest technology successes such as Radian6, Q1 Labs and Genesys Laboratories Canada, and was co-founder and COO of East Valley Ventures. That experience gives Jeff a unique perspective to see and understand the growth potential in New Brunswick’s start-up and research innovation sectors.

Jeff is active in the innovation and research ecosystem in Atlantic Canada as well as serving as the Chair of PropelICT, a regional ICT accelerator, and as a Board member of Director of SpringBoard Atlantic, a network of the office of research services across all Atlantic Canadian post-secondary institutions aimed at increased commercialization of applied research through collaborative partnerships between industry and academia.

Jeff is a chartered accountant by profession and was recently recognized by CPA New Brunswick for his contribution to industry and to his community earning distinction and honour for his profession with the distinction of Fellow, FCPA.

President and CEO, NBCC

Pierre Zundel

Pierre Zundel is the President and CEO of the Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB). Before becoming the CEO of the CCNB, Dr. Zundel served as President of the University of Sudbury, Interim President of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Vice-President Academic at Laurentian University and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, among others. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC), Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) and Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne (ACUFC). Dr. Zundel has over 35 years of experience in post-secondary education and research.

Among his other experiences and accomplishments, Dr. Zundel served as President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities of Canada, President of the Consortium des universités de la francophonie ontarienne, Co-Chair of the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne, and as an officer on the Board of Directors of the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation.

He was named a 3M National Teaching Fellow by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in 2003 and received the Educational Leadership Award from the Atlantic Association of Universities in 2002.

He was also a founder and dean of the Renaissance College at the University of New Brunswick. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto (Bachelors and Masters) and of the Université Laval (Ph.D.) in forestry. He has taught forestry courses at the Université de Moncton, Edmundston campus, and at the University of New Brunswick. He also holds a certificate in Emergency Medical Technician (paramedic) and a range of Community College of New Brunswick firefighting certifications.

CEO, TechImpact

Cathy Simpson

A Newfoundlander who made her way to Nova Scotia and then New Brunswick after attending Acadia University, everything in Cathy Simpson’s career has been in tech and innovation in Atlantic Canada. That means growing our region’s economy through the use of technology, growing talent and jobs, harnessing capital, connecting companies and people to globally relevant problems, mentoring founders, and exposing more women, girls and diversity to the sector.

She does this work as the CEO of TechImpact, an industry-led organization focused on having Atlantic Canada embrace and accelerate technology adoption and innovation as the economic future’s cornerstone. She is the Board Chair of NBIF, an independent, private, New Brunswick-based organization focused on venture capital and research funding. Cathy is the founder of UP+GO, a social enterprise building and delivering leadership programs to high school girls, teaching job-ready skills, strengthening their leadership mindset, and exposing them to incredible women in STEM and entrepreneurship.

From hosting the TechTalks Podcast to nurturing future generations of women leaders, she lives by UP+GO’s motto – Be Brave. Be You. Cathy is an Acadia University graduate and lives in Rothesay with her family.



Frank McKenna

Frank McKenna is a politician, ambassador, lawyer and businessman whose relentless pursuit of New Brunswick’s best interests has been a constant across the remarkable trajectory of his life and career. As premier of New Brunswick from 1987 to 1997, he advanced a contemporary vision for New Brunswick predicated on state-of-the-art technology, progressive programs and pride. New Brunswick became a global leader in e-government and achieved national acclaim for its technology prowess.

Frank was the first premier in Canada to have an email address and a computer in his office. An early adopter, he has long understood the power of technology to make us more connected, successful and contemporary. During his three terms in office, he advanced a revolutionary vision of moving New Brunswick to a knowledge-based economy based on “bandwidth and brain-width.”

Following three whirlwind terms, Frank kept his promise to step down after ten years. He went on to influential roles outside of his home province, first as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. in 2005. The following year, TD Bank named him deputy chairman, a position created for Frank that he still holds.

Frank McKenna holds 15 honorary degrees, an Order of Canada, an Order of New Brunswick, a QC, is a Privy Counsellor, a Vanier Award recipient and a Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors. He is a former Chancellor of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

He holds degrees from St. Francis Xavier University and University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law, where he earned a prestigious Lord Beaverbrook scholarship and graduated second in his class.

Through it all, Frank has never lost his abiding connection and commitment to his home province, where he lives in Cap Pele with his wife, Julie. The McKennas have three children and seven grandchildren.

President, University of New Brunswick

Paul Mazerolle

Dr. Paul Mazerolle is the 19th president and vice-chancellor of the University of New Brunswick. Prior to his appointment in July 2019, Dr. Mazerolle was previously the pro vice chancellor (arts, education and law, 2009-2019), campus provost for Mount Gravatt campus (2009-2019), director of the Violence Research and Prevention program (2006-2019), and director of the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance (2007-2009) at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. He was also director of Research and Prevention at the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (2002-2005) and head of the criminology program at the University of Queensland (2000-2006).

Dr. Mazerolle received his bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the University of New Brunswick (1989), his master of science in criminal justice from Northeastern University (1990), and his PhD in criminology from the University of Maryland at College Park (1995).

Dr. Mazerolle has led and participated in several major initiatives. While at Griffith, he chaired the university-wide Safe Campus Taskforce and chaired the sub-committee on Changing Attitudes and Behaviour regarding Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault. Since 2014, Dr. Mazerolle led and chaired the Griffith Integrity 20 program. Dr. Mazerolle was a member of the Premier’s Youth Violence Taskforce and the Seniors Taskforce in Queensland, Australia. He was also Board Chair and Director at Open Minds, a leading non-government organization addressing mental illness and disability. Dr. Mazerolle is a past editor of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology and is the founding co-editor (with Tara McGee) of the Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology.

An active scholar in criminology, Dr. Mazerolle has led several funded research projects. His research examines processes that shape offending behaviour across the life-course. His primary focus is in building knowledge on violence to inform theories, advance understanding, and improve policy and practices to reduce or prevent violence.

Paul is a proud native of New Brunswick, having grown up in Fredericton. He returns with his wife Amanda, and their two border collies, Maya and Gaby, to enjoy the four seasons.

Executive Director, McKenna Institute

Adrienne Oldford

Adrienne Oldford brings deep leadership experience and a passion for economic and social development in New Brunswick to her role at the helm of the McKenna Institute. Over more than 25 years in senior management positions in the public and private sectors, she has served as president and CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council and COO of Atlantic Lottery Corp., among other roles.

Adrienne serves on the Board of Assumption Life and is the Chair of the UNB Faculty of Management Advisory Board. She regularly volunteers to facilitate strategic planning engagements with local community organizations.

Adrienne holds an MBA from the University of New Brunswick and a BSc from Dalhousie University. She has also completed several programs through the Institute of Corporate Directors and Queen’s University’s Executive Education Program.

In 2018, Adrienne was recognized by the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum with the Frank McKenna Award for Public Policy, presented to distinguished Atlantic Canadians who have built bridges between sectors, contributed to public policy, and shown exceptional leadership. UNB’s Faculty of Business Administration has awarded her the Certificate of Achievement.

This invigorating event is made possible by our sponsors. Please note that invitations are non-transferable.

See the highlights from our inaugural event.