City and UBCO ramping up innovation and research collaboration

Ramping up collaboration

The City of Kelowna and UBC Okanagan are looking to further enhance their longstanding innovation and research collaboration.

An official Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the university was struck in 2017 which, among other things, included collaboration on research, learning and innovation.

City manager Doug Gilchrist says the two entities want to take that agreement even further.

"We would like to take this to a new level and create a Centre of Excellence where we have staff sitting side by each in a unique environment to both manage the initiatives itself but also bring new ideas to the table and new partners over the course of time," Gilchrest told council Monday.

He says the proposed three-year pilot project would be designed to further advance innovation, research and education.

Gilchrist says the partnership has been very successful in both coming up with research initiatives and attracting additional funding from various sources.

Both the city and UBCO contribute $100,000 a year toward the initiative and Gilchrist told council those funds have been leveraged between two and 13 times depending on the project.

"Collaboration between the city and UBC can attract much greater dollars than we could do on our own and it is a fundamental of this work is being able to leverage our investment," added Gilchrist.

A budget item for an additional $175,000 from the city which UBCO would match will come to council during budget deliberations for the Centre of Excellent initiative.

Gilchrist outlined several initiatives which are already underway. The five research projects also align in some way with council's strategic priorities for this term.

  • Enhanced Mobility Corridor (rail trail) - This is aimed at understanding how the city can improve the connectivity between UBCO, the airport and the downtown area utilizing the rail trail corridor while also investigating current and new future transportation modes
  • EV Charging and Bus Electrification - Determining which routes are needed and whether they would need to be changed based on such factors as demographics, affordable housing while ensuring there are rapid bus charging stations placed in key locations
  • Sustainable Aquatic Operations - Providing optimal operational strategies which take into account energy use, emissions, air quality, disinfectant use, water circulation and water temperature controls
  • Solar Energy Feasibility Study - Evaluation and feasibility of solar energy in the region using software and real time operational data to help understand the feasibility of solar in Kelowna
  • Biochar Blended Clay Bricks - An innovative solution to landfill waste includes evaluation of, and potential for, development of standard techniques to convert standard construction landfill waste into biochar bricks.

Dr. Phil Barker, vice-principal and assistant vice-president of research and innovation at UBCO said the biochar brick initiative which was of particular interest to some councillor is just in the early testing stages and it could be a while before results are available.

Barker added the collaboration between the two has "really taken flight.

"We have been able to embed, I think, the goal of enhancing regional prosperity by working collectively."

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