Photo: Courtesy of Sylvain Charbonneau.
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U of O, Kanata North Business Association to draw inspiration from Silicon Valley

The University of Ottawa is joining forces with the Kanata North Business Association (KNBA) to open Canada’s largest technology park early next year.

On Nov. 6, the U of O announced its most recent technology initiative during a Wesley Clover Foundation Tech Tuesday presentation. Inspired by Stanford University’s role in building Silicon Valley, the initiative largely draws on the successful link between academia and the technology sector.

“Even though we’re only 25 kilometers away from Kanata North, I felt that having a physical presence in Kanata North was important to better link their ecosystem with our ecosystem,” said vice-president research of the University of Ottawa, Sylvain Charbonneau.

With an aim to boost research, the partnership also stems from a 2017 business study conducted by the University of Ottawa, assessing industry needs.

“There were many things that came out of that, and access to talent was by far the most important thing for (businesses),” said Charbonneau.

The U of O’s presence at the park will start small but focus on openness, said Charbonneau. The KNBA already uses open services, such as hot desking to maximize space. The U of O will add a physical presence with researchers, and provide a high-speed link to the graduate programs already conducting technology research.

Additionally, the technology park will be home to collaborative work spaces such as CollabSpace, intercompany software services, mentorship programs, and more.

In the business study, Kanata North companies also said they wanted access to academic training and solutions, such as short-term courses and graduate expertise.

“Technology changes so quickly that (companies) want to be able to access these micro-certificates where you can add a 17-hour-course dedicated to making artificial intelligence in the workplace,” said Charbonneau.

With seminars, workshops, and classes, students across programs will join over 500 companies to transfer knowledge. Future student projects include: the use of autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, prosthetic limbs, and more.

While the partnership presents opportunities for students in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Charbonneau said the entire university will be involved, including medicine and arts.

“It’s mostly (the) STEM disciplines and medicine, but the reality is much bigger than that,” he said. “What can the faculties do together to bring visual arts in the way (companies) deliver programming, for example.”

Since many companies hire overseas, hiring managers are also seeking access to language training, added Charbonneau. The University of Ottawa will draw on its language programs to help companies further develop their services.

Currently, the KNBA adds roughly $7.8 billion to Canada’s GDP, and conducts 90 per cent of Canada’s telecommunications research. The Kanata North site already houses companies like Apple, Amazon and Hewlett-Packard.

Coming in December, the U of O will host a co-op student fair where students can pitch business seminars and connect with industry experts at the Kanata North technology park.