Last year Kingston, Ontario, was named one of the world’s top seven “intelligent communities” by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF). To qualify for this title, a city has to demonstrate that it embodies a vision of sustainable development and renewable energy, and that it is working to expand broadband access.
Kingston is on fire. Not only has Canada’s first capital city been working for several years on a vast fibre optic network to provide the entire city with high speed Internet access, but it has also demonstrated its long term vision by making the university community a central part of its commitment to innovation.
Hybrid of minds
Queen’s University and its Innovation Park were undoubtedly a factor in the ICF’s decision. Founded in 2007 with the help of the provincial government, Innovation Park was created as a community of innovators and specialists where academia, industry, government, and not-for-profits join forces to cultivate ideas, identify and transform important technological discoveries and propel innovations into the marketplace.
This is where precisely where Kingston has distinguished itself. Drawing directly on the university milieu for technological innovations not only gives students and researchers a chance to test out some of the practical applications of their work, but also serves as a talent incubator, which gives companies a good reason to set up shop in the area and grow their businesses.
Queen’s offers its strengths in biochemistry and nanotechnology, and several promising advances have recently been made. For example one of the technologies produced by Medizone, an international firm with close ties to the university, was considered a possible tool in the fight against the Ebola virus. Other ambitious longer-term projects have also garnered attention, such as Altranex Corp., which pioneered advances in biofuels and bio-lubricants as substitutes for biodiesels.
According to a news release issued by Innovation Park, “By 2020, Altranex’s business plan projects to have licensed almost 30 production facilities around the world, each producing up to 100 MT/day of renewable products”. The release goes on to say that, “The direct environmental impact of the use of Altranex’s renewable fuels is estimated to be a reduction of 2.8 million MT of greenhouse gasses and 44,000 MT of sulfur dioxide emissions”. Clearly nothing to overlook!
While Kingston has taken its place as a technological leader among cities, it still faces one final challenge. A city never quite accedes to the major leagues until it has established its unique cultural style. A cultural style is the creative character that breathes life into the city, contributes to urban renewal and imparts a distinctive local flavour to the various neighbourhoods.
Kingston has what it takes, and if it tackles this challenge with the same kind of determination that it has demonstrated in other endeavours, it stands to succeed in becoming Ontario’s new hub, strategically located at the crossroads of Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Give it five years and then watch out for Kingston!