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Why Ottawa has the right ingredients to be the next innovation story

Talent and innovative thinking from post-secondary institutions like uOttawa is the secret sauce

A collage of images shows University of Ottawa students
A collage of images shows University of Ottawa students

Ottawa is poised to be the next big tech innovation story, but several players have to collaborate to make it happen. Fortunately for us, Ottawa’s local universities and colleges are stepping up to play their part.

A key player is the University of Ottawa’s associate vice-president of innovation, partnerships and entrepreneurship, Guy Levesque, who’s known for being a forward-thinking innovator. 

In 2018, under Levesque’s leadership, uOttawa opened a satellite campus in Kanata North, moving forward with the university’s vision to be an academic anchor and a valuable contributor to the thriving ecosystem in Canada’s largest technology park – currently home to over 545 companies.

In Kanata North, students and researchers collaborate with industry and venture capital partners in what they call the Kanata North 5G innovation zone. There, engineering students work on leading-edge 5G, IoT, autonomous vehicle and cybersecurity projects – all to support the connected car and autonomous cluster in the park as well as the new Smart Connected Vehicles Innovation Centre. That approach is the secret to their success.

Let’s use one of the cutting-edge technologies they’re working on as a metaphor to show how their innovation will help lead Ottawa into the future.

5G: Real-time communication

5G is the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks. It gives mobile networks better connectivity (meaning more bandwidth, stronger connection and faster downloads). 

What 5G users get is real-time communication, which makes innovations like autonomous vehicles and smart classrooms possible. 

Collaboration in the park also operates in real-time, enabling critical partnerships between industry, academia and venture capital. Multinational brands such as Ericsson, Nokia and Telus are leaders in 5G and are actively engaged with post-secondary institutions to enable more innovation and commercialization. Having access to leading-edge research capabilities and expertise, as well as a pool of talented students, makes the 5G world their oyster. 

What does this mean for Ottawa?

If you thought Ottawa was just a boring government town, think again. Ottawa has a bigger percentage of people working in tech than Silicon Valley at nearly 12 per cent of the population. 

As 5G development grows with the right people in the room, Ottawa’s tech hub can lead the way for Canada’s economy to be one of the first that benefits from the commercialization of 5G, thanks to ongoing projects such as the uOttawa Cyber Hub and the Smart Connected Vehicles Innovation Centre.

The potential benefits for the Canadian economy is why every Kanata North company needs the talent of the next generation. To be the best, you need to hire the best.

None of this could happen without the foresight of post-secondary institutions and their innovative leaders like Levesque. Everyday efforts encourage connecting the dots, engaging others in the right conversations, and leveraging connections as well as networks – all to develop productive partnerships and enable innovation. 

“Making innovation happen requires convergence, alignment and the orchestration of many players and efforts. It is notoriously messy, but highly rewarding,” said Levesque. “Governments and industry need to lean on post-secondary institutions to do some of that heavy lifting, such as accessing skilled talent and leading-edge research capability, in order to bring our depth of innovative thinking to solving complex issues.”

And this is just the beginning. With Ottawa’s rich pool of university-trained talent at the table, the time for tech innovation in Ottawa is now.

To find out how your company can partner with the University of Ottawa, check out our recent conversation with Guy Levesque or contact him directly at