Smart Cities Office Gets $5 Million Boost to Spread the Innovation

Innovation pays. At least that seems to be lesson from Friday morning’s announcement with Guelph’s Member of Parliament, the Mayor of Guelph, the Chief Administrative Officer, the Warden for Wellington County and the Smart Cities office. The Federal government opened its wallet this morning to give the Smart Cities office at additional $5 million to further their efforts to build a circular food economy and fund new sustainability initiatives.

“This investment goes a long way to helping us take this work to new levels,” said Barbara Swartzentruber, the executive director of the Smart Cities office. “We know that when we can support dozens of initiatives like this, the collective impact can be significant. As you can see from the extensive list of local and national collaborators that we’ve assembled, a first rate team will lead and support this work.”

The money coming from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, or FedDev Ontario, will fund what’s being called “first circular economy test platform and accelerator. “The Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad”, or COIL, will build upon the resources and processes established to create a circular food economy and apply them to other areas where waste can be turned into a resource.

“I sit on the Environment Committee and we’re looking at a circular plastics economy. It’s just another example of how we can start to divert from landfills and take resources used in one life and continue it in future lives in the economy,” said Longfield. “The world is looking towards circular solutions. We’re committed to supporting the sector, which seeks to find ways to repurpose material in all stages of production with environmental and economic benefits.”

“What we learned in our first year is that there is an incredible demand for businesses to learn more and to accelerate their growth within the circular economy,” added Swartzentruber. “You often see food and environment type businesses working together to focus on the same kind of goals, and the opportunity in those sectors to really reduce waste and impact climate change are tremendous.”

The City of Guelph and the County of Wellington won the $10 million prize for the Smart Cities challenge in 2019, a contest arranged by the Federal government to challenge municipalities to find innovative solutions to persistent societal, cultural and environmental problems. The Smart Cities office was established last year to oversee the investment of the $10 million received by creating a circular food economy, a process by which food waste is eliminated, and access to nutritious food is promoted.

COIL will serve as a “living lab” that will help business test new initiatives, applications, and technologies in a “real-world setting”, and  will offer funding to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help get their ideas to market faster. Along with these innovations is a promised 400 new jobs, growth in as many as 70 businesses, and over 100 new products and services.

“This is a three year project, and we’ll be ready to take businesses into that program in September,” Swartzentruber explained. “I expect within 12 months you’ll start to see the impact of this investment as each year we will be hosting challenges and demonstration projects with significant investments of funding that will enable companies to come together and innovate. You’ll see continuous intake and impact growth over time.

Innovation Guelph, 10C, and the Chamber of Commerce are partners on the new initiative with the City, the County, and the Smart Cities office. The Business Centre Guelph-Wellington, Alectra Utilities, and Conestoga College, along with the Lang School and the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph are among the community collaborators.

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