Techopia Live: University of Ottawa opens the doors to Kanata North campus

Techopia Live went inside the University of Ottawa’s new space in the Kanata North tech park this week to hear about how the direct partnership between local industry and academia came to be.

Sylvain Charbonneau, the vice-president of research at uOttawa – which is a Techopia sponsor through its Faculty of Engineering – said the new space sprung from his own roots as an entrepreneur.

Earlier in his career, Charbonneau spun off a company from the National Research Council and raised it in the tech park, giving the post-secondary institution’s recent move to the area a personal connection.

“I understood the ecosystem quite well. One of the things I wanted to do as the VP of research was to have a physical presence here in Kanata North,” he told Techopia Live. “We felt it was important to have close connectivity with the community.”

Sentiment aside, there are many practical benefits to the new space, which features classrooms and meeting space in the heart of the tech park at 535 Legget Dr.

Before pursuing plans for a Kanata North campus, uOttawa surveyed local companies on what they needed most, Charbonneau said.

So what are Kanata North companies wanting? In a word: talent.

Attracting, retaining and developing skilled workers was a top concern for most companies uOttawa heard from, Charbonneau said, in addition to research and development capabilities to remain on the cutting edge.

The new space will have a strong co-op presence, with students able to use the space to engage with companies in need of fresh talent. In addition, it’ll host classes for Kanata North workers looking to bolster their resumes with an MBA or new technical credential.

“The technology is changing so rapidly now, the ability to go and reskill yourself is so important,” Charbonneau said.

The local post-secondary institution’s research arm is also excited about the new space, Charbonneau noted, with many professors hoping to spend time in the offices here to develop closer relationships with the R&D-intensive companies surrounding the campus.

Having an academic institution to anchor a tech hub is common around the world, Charbonneau said, giving the example of Stanford University sitting at the heart of Silicon Valley in California.

“All of the examples of successful tech parks have a close collaboration between academia and industry,” said Veronica Farmer, director of operations at the Kanata North Business Association.

As Kanata North companies delve further into burgeoning fields such as autonomous vehicles and cybersecurity, Farmer told Techopia Live that having the University of Ottawa in the neighbourhood will only elevate the global reputation of Canada’s largest tech park.

“It bodes really well for us to position ourselves as an internationally recognized tech ecosystem,” she said.

The University of Ottawa is hosting a housewarming party of sorts on Thursday, April 25. The full-day official opening event will feature networking and information sessions for anyone from Kanata North and beyond curious about what opportunities come with the new space.

To hear more about the partnership between uOttawa and Kanata North, watch the video above.