The Memorial University engineering student who led a team to second place in the international SpaceX Hyperloop competition says innovation is "picking up" in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"What you see is a culture happening, a culture change ... You're starting to see that culture where the university is becoming a leader in more than just education," said Adam Keating Wednesday.

Keating was one of the speakers at the launch of the government's Business Innovation Agenda, which included business leaders and politicians, including Premier Dwight Ball. 

Paradigm Hyperloop

The Paradigm Hyperloop team finished second in the SpaceX Hyperloop competition and made history with the world's first successful run of an air bearing model. (Paradigm Hyperloop/Facebook)

Paradigm Hyperloop, which included Keating and other engineering students, launched the world's first successful run of a hyperloop pod using air-bearing technology in August, placing second against a competitive field.

It was the only team in the Top 3 from North America. A fully realized hyperloop transportation system would take someone from St. John's to Corner Brook in 30 minutes.

"For me it was the best experience I ever had," Keating said at the Wednesday event. 

Adam Keating Innovation hyperloop

Adam Keating says the future of innovation in the province is 'incredibly bright.' (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The government said its plan — which is part of it's provincial strategy The Way Forward — will focus of four areas:

  • Product development and commercialization.
  • Productivity.
  • Growth and internationalization.
  • Workforce skills and talent.

More than just hype

Keating said the spinoffs inspired by the innovation and drive behind the hyperloop competition are ramping up. 

"It's also enabling people to do cool things. So in the past, getting a job in, say Silicon Valley with a tech giant, was really difficult," he said.

"Just this winter alone, there are two students from this team working at Tesla, two going to work at [Elon Musk's] Neuralink and another going to Apple with a potential for a sixth going to SpaceX. That was from a group of 20 people," Keating added.

The movers and shakers are also creating waves right here at home, he said.

Four companies have started in the last year — from that same group of 20 people — that focus on a wide range of technologies: building electric propulsion systems, helping teachers with classroom materials, creating virtual reality environments for video games and getting products to market faster.

"One question I'm always asked is,'Why Newfoundland?' Or 'Is this possible in Newfoundland?' Two years ago, I think I would have questioned this myself — you know, are we able to compete?" Keating said.

"Now you're seeing on a definitive scale that — as students or as companies — you can compete and the future is incredibly bright."

With files from Sarah Smellie