The University of Ottawa is establishing a physical presence in the Kanata North Business Park, making it the first post-secondary institution to set up shop in the city’s tech hub in a push to bridge the gap between students and employers.
In a presentation Nov. 6 at Tech Tuesday, Sylvain Charbonneau, the university’s vice-president of research, said he hopes that businesses and students can collaborate on research, workshops and more.
Veronica Farmer, the director of operations at the Kanata North Business Association – which is working with the University of Ottawa on the initiative – introduced Charbonneau to a full house gathered at the Marshes Golf Club.
“Tonight’s presentation is about the power of collaboration, particularly when industry and academia get together and they join forces to create something around innovation,” Farmer said.
Farmer said the KNBA, companies in the tech park and the university have been in talks for several months on how to shine a national light on Kanata North. She credited Charbonneau for the idea, calling him “a successful blend of a researcher, innovator and an entrepreneur.”
Charbonneau said that as a researcher and tech company founder, he feels very connected to Kanata North and the opportunities that a research-intensive university could bring to the park. Following a survey of many of the companies in Kanata North, he found that many businesses felt they needed more talent and training.
“It’s 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.”
Charbonneau argued that a strong link between businesses and academia is a critical component of successful technology parks around the world.
The new campus will include seminar and workshop opportunities for students and companies, as well as an increased focus on internships and co-op placements.
“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.
Two researchers from the university presented their work to showcase some of the innovative research this partnership could bring to the technology park.
Jason Millar presented his work on the application of ethics in the world of machine learning and autonomous vehicles, and Hanan Anis showcased the work of University of Ottawa students who have come up with innovative designs for prosthetic limbs, art installations, drone testing equipment and more.
“The idea is to bring the talent here. And then we can start working together,” said Charbonneau.
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 2019.