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University of Saskatchewan doubles down on its future in Canmore

The University of Saskatchewan has announced a formal partnership with Innovate Canmore and confirmed it would be a tenant in an innovation hub as part of Three Sisters Mountain Village's proposed Gateway project, should it be approved for rezoning.

CANMORE – The future is bright for the University of Saskatchewan in Canmore, Alberta. 

At the end of January, the post-secondary institution announced a new partnership agreement with Innovate Canmore and has indicated it would be a tenant in Three Sisters Mountain Village's Gateway project, currently being considered for rezoning. 

Academic strategic business advisor for the UofS, Ernie Barber, told the Outlook this week that both opportunities represent a continued commitment from the post-secondary institution to have an educational and research based presence in the Bow Valley into the future. 

"The University of Saskatchewan is really good at education – in preparing people for careers and citizenship," Barber said. "The University of Saskatchewan is also really good at discovery and especially in key areas that are important to the prairies. 

"Where we want to get even better is at innovation. Innovation is that process where discoveries and those kinds of ideas ... how they get connected to entrepreneurs, investors and business people – to use those ideas to create new products and services that make a difference in the world.

"We believe Innovate Canmore can help us do that."

Innovate Canmore CEO Brian McLure is optimistic that his endeavour to create a centre for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship is an excellent partner for the university to achieve its future goals. 

"We are working very closely with the university and have been since last summer, but now that work is within a formal agreement that has been approved by the board of governors for the university," McLure said. 

Barber said the university is able to bring the research and discoveries to the table, while Innovate Canmore is able to connect those ideas with investors and entrepreneurs. He said the goal is to develop potential ideas into something that society can use – while at the same time creating jobs in the local economy. 

"Innovate Canmore is really well positioned to bring entrepreneurs to the table," Barber said. "There appears to be ... entrepreneurs and business people who want to establish themselves in Canmore and work with Innovate Canmore and are looking for ideas to turn into products and services. 

"Innovate Canmore, in turn, taps into the stream of ideas that comes out of the University of Saskatchewan." 

For the past decade, the UofS has operated its Global Institute for Water Security and Global Water Futures laboratory out of Canmore. Academic research into snow hydrology in the source of the headwaters for many residents in Saskatchewan was vital to understand its implications for residents and industry. 

The partnership with Innovate Canmore, said McClure, opens up opportunities within the entire university and not just the locally based institute. It is exciting news for the organization, as it will be able to work with a variety of disciplines within the academic setting to find potential private sector opportunities. 

The Gateway project was in front of council on Tuesday (Feb. 2) for first reading, which it received and a public hearing has been set for March 2.

The rezoning bylaw would lead to the developer subdividing and moving toward development of the commercial and residential development. 

Along with the university, McClure said Innovate Canmore is also interested in operating out of the innovation hub proposed as part of The Gateway project. 

The partnership agreement with the university and the potential location for an innovation hub both contribute towards economic diversification – a major driver for McLure and Innovate Canmore.  

"The intention since day one was to have meaningful economic diversification for our community," he said. "Our expectation is that with all the work we have done already with public schools, artsPlace and Bow Valley College ... when this all comes out in the community, it will be well received as an initiative to support the community in many ways, but also prepare it for the 21st century knowledge based economy."

With respect to The Gateway project, which the university has provided a letter of support for, Barber said the potential for Canmore to become a hub for innovation is exciting. 

"If we can all be co-located in the same place, you get a spillover of ideas that happens when you get people who are excited about innovation living closely to each other," Barber said.