University of Ottawa plants roots in Kanata North tech park

Kanata North
Kanata North. Photo by Fan Song.

The University of Ottawa has announced a new initiative focused on bringing research and talent to the Kanata North technology park.

In a Tech Tuesday presentation this week, vice-president of research Sylvain Charbonneau explained that education is a key part of building a nationally recognized tech ecosystem.

“(Kanata North is) a place to live, work and play. We've all heard this. But there is one attribute that is missing,” said Charbonneau. “And that's the word learn.”

The initiative will include seminars and workshops, research collaboration opportunities, and an increased focus on internships and co-op placements. As well, the university plans to establish a physical presence in the technology park at 535 Legget Dr.

The university has been in talks with the Kanata North Business Association (KNBA) for several months. KNBA director of operations Veronica Farmer said Charbonneau, who previously founded communications tech firm Optenia, is “no stranger to the benefits of pairing research and business development.”

Charbonneau said the university conducted a survey of Kanata North companies, and found that many companies were experiencing a gap in talent and training.

“There is a skill gap that exists and there's also a communication gap that exists, and that's what we're trying to bring together,” said Charbonneau. “One thing that we've heard loud and clear from that study that was commissioned last year is access to talent.”

Two University of Ottawa professors presented their work as examples of the kind of research the initiative could bring to the park.

Jason Millar presented his proposal to research the ethics of artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, inviting Kanata North tech companies to partner with him.

“The University of Ottawa is uniquely positioned as a leader in research in the ethical, legal and policy issues around robotics and AI,” said Millar.

Hanan Anis, director of the Chair in Entrepreneurial Engineering Design, showcased some of the work done by University of Ottawa students who have come up with novel designs for prosthetic limbs, art installations, drone testing equipment and more.

Charbonneau said the key to a successful technology ecosystem is a strong relationship with academic research. While this initiative is starting small, he said he hopes to see the relationship between Kanata North and the University of Ottawa expand over time.

Upcoming events include a job fair in December, where University of Ottawa students will have the chance to meet with Kanata North businesses, and the kickoff of the Thought Leadership Series in February. Charbonneau said the doors to the physical space at 535 Legget Dr. will be open in early 2019.