Thank you Andy, Stuart, Barb – all staff, partners, stakeholders and panelists involved with this project! This is a game changer for our city! So pleased to have entrepreneurs coming inside city hall!
City of Guelph launches Civic Solutions Accelerator
Program will help City address complex municipal challenges
Guelph, Ont., June 16, 2016 – This afternoon, the City of Guelph launched the Civic Solutions Accelerator that enables the City of Guelph to work with entrepreneurs, startups, students and companies to create innovative solutions for complex municipal challenges. At the launch, a panel of experts discussed the Accelerator’s potential to help create a civic technology hub in Guelph. Read more…
My opening remarks are here:
Thanks for coming everyone. I’m thrilled to be here to help launch Guelph’s Civic Accelerator. This is a really exciting part of Open Guelph, and I think it’s going to do great things for our city and for local entrepreneurs.
I want to thank Andy Best, our Open Government Program Manager, and all our panellists today: Kithio Mwanzia, Kirk Roberts, and Kevin Tuer.
My job today is just to take a few minutes and set the stage for this afternoon’s discussion.
First, the WHAT. What exactly are we doing?
Well, essentially, the Civic Accelerator is going to set up the City as an R&D lab for entrepreneurs, startups, students, and companies – so that they can find new, innovative solutions for municipal problems.
We’re going to set up City Hall as a place where civic technology solutions can be created, tested, and commercialized.
We’re going to bring entrepreneurs and partners into City Hall, embed them in City departments, and give them lots of access to City staff. They will bring fresh eyes to what the challenges are, and fresh ideas about what the solutions could be.
So that’s the WHAT. The next obvious question is “WHY?”
WHY is the City of Guelph going outside the box and setting up this new way of finding solutions to municipal challenges?
I have a little story that will help answer that question.
The other day, I was in Kitchener with Premier Wynne, the Minister of Transportation, and a number of MPPs and other Mayors. We were there for an announcement about GO transit.
A key part of the announcement was an agreement between GO and CN rail, that would move much of the freight train traffic off the Toronto to Waterloo Region line – freeing it up for more GO trains, and ultimately for all-day, two-way GO.
The CFO and VP of CN spoke at the announcement. One of the things he said is that he’s proud such an old and established industry – CN freight rail – could play a role in unleashing the potential of new, high-tech industries along the corridor.
The railways played a huge part in building this country. And rail – in this case commuter rail – is going to play a huge part in unlocking the potential of the innovation corridor that includes Guelph.
How is this relevant to the Civic Accelerator?
When most people think of municipalities, the word “innovation” is not necessarily the first word that comes to mind.
Municipal government is an old and established institution. Council meetings have been run much the same way for a long time. We’re into titles like “Your Worship” and symbols like the coat of arms.
Like the railways, the municipal government is an established institution. With the Civic Accelerator, we are starting the ball rolling in using this old institution in new ways, to unlock new potential for the 21st century economy.
Civic technology is a $6 billion market in North America.
When we talk about the innovation corridor from Toronto to Waterloo Region – we know that Guelph has a significant opportunity and a role to play.
But we’re not going to try to copy the other guys. We’re not going to try to start up another Blackberry.
We are carving out our own niche.
A big part of that niche is the agri-food and agri-technology sector, where Guelph is already a national and international player.
But Guelph also has the talent, the skill, and the expertise to be a player in the $6 billion- North American civic technology market.
This is an opportunity for us. The Civic Accelerator will boost our capacity and expertise in a real and measurable way.
And – as an important benefit – the people of Guelph will benefit from the solutions created. City departments and their employees will benefit from them as well.
We are already benefiting from the partnerships that have been formed to create the Accelerator.
This isn’t just a City Hall project. It’s a partnership between the City, the Chamber of Commerce, Innovation Guelph, Canada’s Open Data Exchange, and the University of Guelph’s Centre for Business and Student Entrepreneurship (better known as C-Base).
So I want to thank all those partners for this tremendous collaboration.
I want to thank Andy for all his work on getting the Accelerator ready to launch.
I want to thank all those who will apply to be part of it – and those who will ultimately be here at City Hall, working on solutions. And I want to thank the City employees who will be working with them in new and innovative ways.
It’s not easy to take an old, established institution and ask it to do new, unfamiliar, and innovative things. But it’s worth it.