Algonquin College’s president travelled to Kanata this spring to share her vision of an “education city” and invite members of the country’s largest technology park to collaborate with the school in creating a new cohort of skilled workers.
Cheryl Jensen’s presentation at Tech Tuesday – a monthly Kanata meetup spearheaded by Terry Matthews – came just ahead of the opening of Algonquin College’s DARE District, a $44.9-million multi-use facility designed to stimulate incubation, innovation and entrepreneurship.
DARE – which stands for discovery, applied research and entrepreneurship – serves as a multidisciplinary space for students, faculty, researchers and businesses, and includes a makerspace, cybersecurity centre and multimedia production facility and more.
For Jensen, the DARE District is more than just a building. She argues it’s a bricks-and-mortar manifestation of the college’s identity and mission as it looks towards the next century.
“We’re not just saying something about what we think this new and exciting building will become,” Jensen told the standing-room only audience at the Brookstreet Hotel. “We’re making a profound statement about who we are as a college. DARE effectively encapsulates the goal and purpose of Algonquin College.”
In a nutshell, the DARE District aims to bring students and researchers from different disciplines together, stimulating a cross-pollination of ideas, some of which will hopefully evolve into viable businesses.
Algonquin College, like Ottawa’s other post-secondary institutions, is an important source of skilled graduates for Kanata North companies.
This was an underlying theme of Jensen’s presentation: By investing in the school’s infrastructure, Algonquin College is investing in the sustainability of Kanata’s tech sector.
Some, of course, would like to see Algonquin College or another post-secondary institution establish a physical satellite campus in Kanata, especially since the school owns a parcel of west-end land that it’s reserving for “future development.”
However, Jensen preferred to outline a more pan-Ottawa vision of “the education city” that emphasizes collaboration between the city’s schools and economic development agencies.
Working with the other post-secondary institutions, as well as with Invest Ottawa, the schools are looking at new initiatives such as pop-up learning centres that would allow them some flexibility when it comes to working directly in Kanata.
When asked if there were plans to invest in the area, she didn’t rule out the idea of eventually establishing a Kanata footprint.
“We’ve been asked many times, ‘Could we have a presence in Kanata?’” she said. “I wouldn’t want to say what might happen, but there’s interest.”
—— By Kieran Delamont