Talent, training and solutions: How uOttawa Kanata North is helping companies succeed and scale

Veronica Farmer
Veronica Farmer joined uOttawa Kanata North in late 2019 as its director of partnerships and commercialization.
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Engineering.

Roughly a year after establishing a presence in Canada’s largest technology park, the University of Ottawa is ramping up its Kanata North operations and cementing its role as a partner in accelerating the growth of the local tech ecosystem.

The school officially opened its satellite campus in November 2018 on the second floor of the office tower at 535 Legget Dr. as the first step in a planned multi-phase investment in its Kanata North presence.

uOttawa Kanata North launched with a series of events aimed at forging closer ties with west-end businesses and recently turned to a well-known figure in the local tech community to champion opportunities for closer collaboration between industry and academia.

Veronica Farmer, the founder of TrueCourse Communications who recently served as the interim executive director and director of operations at the Kanata North Business Association, joined uOttawa Kanata North in late 2019 as its director of partnerships and commercialization.

“I’m here to support those companies in succeeding and scaling,” Farmer said. “The University of Ottawa can bring talent, we can bring training and we can bring solutions. There is a huge opportunity here.”

Talent

With one of Canada’s top-ranked co-op programs and cohorts of highly sought-after graduates, the University of Ottawa provides a diverse and continuous pipeline of talent to Kanata North companies.

There are already nearly 300 University of Ottawa co-op students working in the tech park at any given time, plus more than 4,100 uOttawa alumni at various stages of their career.

The uOttawa Kanata North campus brings talent closer to the companies that need skilled workers, and brings companies closer to uOttawa’s outstanding talent pool.

Training

There are several entities within the University of Ottawa that help professionals upgrade and broaden their skill sets – empowering engineers to become successful sales professionals, for example, or turning team leaders into effective project managers.

The school’s Professional Development Institute crafts various courses and programming that’s specific to mid-level managers, while the Telfer School of Management offers various certificate programs as well as customized options. Additionally, various faculties at the school work directly with companies to create customized training programs.

While many of the university’s training entities are currently focused on offering remote and online training due to COVID-19, uOttawa Kanata North features a training room with space for up to 80 individuals – allowing entire teams to upgrade their skills once physical distancing requirements are eased.

Solutions

One of the main drivers behind uOttawa Kanata North is the need to bring researchers and industry closer together to solve complex technical challenges, commercialize innovations and uncover potential business opportunities.

Through these partnerships, companies can gain access to cutting-edge equipment, labs, funding and top brainpower looking to team up with leading tech companies.

Farmer said she’s held several discovery meetings with well-known and rapidly growing Kanata tech companies to map out collaboration opportunities.

“It’s my job to be a connector,” she said. “What do you need to be successful? Do you need talent? Do you need training? Are you looking to work together to solve a research challenge? Do you want to access the University’s networks and reach? There are great opportunities for companies to scale with the support of the University of Ottawa.”

Even with so many individuals working from home, uOttawa Kanata North remains open for business, hosting virtual consultations and exploring various ways of supporting the tech community.

And, when COVID-19 restrictions are eased and face-to-face interactions once again become the norm, uOttawa Kanata North will be well-positioned as a central hub for talent, innovators and researchers.

“The University of Ottawa is in the Kanata tech park to be a key ecosystem partner and to help companies succeed and scale,” Farmer said.

uOttawa helps meet COVID-19 challenges

Many members of the University of Ottawa community – including researchers, students and alumni – are drawing upon their expertise and mobilizing to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Here’s a sample of the efforts underway:

  • A group of engineering students are creating plastic face shields to protect front-line health-care workers using 3D printers and laser cutters from the Richard L’Abbé Makerspace lab on campus;
  • uOttawa alumni, Paul Lem (MD 2002) and his company, Spartan Bioscience, to supply Ontario with nearly one million portable COVID-19 test kits. The biotech firm and creator of the portable Spartan Cube can provide results in as little as 30 minutes. The Cube is a small box-like device that collects and analyzes DNA without the need to send samples to a traditional lab, making it ideal for in-field diagnostic testing.
  • Ottawa-based activewear company Thawrih, founded by uOttawa alumni and best known for producing fitness headgear for Muslim and Sikh athletes, is using leftover materials to create face masks that help reduce the spread of COVID-19;
  • More than 250 health-care workers have run through new procedures aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID-19 at the uOttawa Skills and Simulation Centre, a partnership between the University of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital;
  • Virologist Dr. Marc-André Langlois has secured $1 million in funding to pursue a combination of tools against COVID-19, including therapeutic and diagnostic antibodies and a nasal spray vaccine;
  • Marceline Côté, a professor from the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology of the Faculty of Medicine, has received a $415,000 grant to contribute to the national effort to find a treatment for the COVID-19 coronavirus along with five other University of Ottawa researchers. Côté, a specialist in emerging viruses such as Ebola or SARS, uses molecular virology, chemical biology and genetics to identify proteins present in the cells that play a major role in infection and are potential treatment targets.
  • Dr. Daniel Krewski, the director of the R. Samuel McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment, and Dr. Louise Lemyre, a professor of social and community psychology in uOttawa’s Faculty of Social Sciences, are part of a panel advising the chief science adviser of Canada on the latest scientific developments relevant to COVID-19.
  • Several uOttawa faculties, along with the broader Ottawa community, donated thousands of gloves, face masks, N-95 respirators, safety goggles, disinfecting wipes and protective clothing items to local hospitals.