BC’s Okanagan Valley is known all over the world for their wine industry and beautiful lakes and orchards.
Now it’s time for the Okanagan to be known for cleantech.
Catriona Power from Foresight Cleantech Accelerator recently hosted a roundtable discussion and meeting in Kelowna BC as part of the BC Cleantech Cluster Strategy project. Key innovators and business and community leaders across the region met up with Catriona to discuss cleantech, share ideas and plan for the future.
“The Okanagan has a diverse economy anchored in agriculture, tourism, retail trade, manufacturing, forestry and construction. Its sensitive and unique ecosystem that enables the cultivation of wine and fruit, and supports a robust tourism industry has been hit hard by year after year of forest fires, not surprisingly, we are seeing emerging leadership in the area of cleantech” says Power.
The discussion centred around two areas of strength: AgTech and Green Buildings.
For Agtech, the established viniculture industry, the Summerland Research Centre, and the regional growth in areas such as food/beverage and aquaponics as well as the quality of the agricultural land (with unique characteristics for testing new technologies and growing new crops) were noted as positive factors.
There were also a number of regional strengths identified in the area of Green Buildings, including an existing group of green building focused SMEs, a construction/building industry who is engaged on new codes and practices, and an excellent education infrastructure that is both trades-focused and research driven (anchored by UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College).
Innovation, Collaboration & Change
Educational partnerships and initiatives were also seen as important contributors to the emerging cleantech industry. The recently announced collaboration between Foresight Cleantech, UBC and Okanagan College to deliver Foresight’s acceleration services to the regional cleantech industry and to connect into the testing, research and development and educational services at Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan was seen as an opportunity to further develop the regional economy.
The Okanagan is a thriving, vibrant and growing community. But, like the rest of the province, it is staring down a multitude of change coming its way, from the effects of global warming (mountain pine beetle infestations, forest fires), to an aging population, a rapidly growing population base, and a changing economic landscape.
The participants at the roundtable agreed that more discussions are necessary, that innovative ideas are needed, and more opportunities to support commercialization of technology and bring industry partners together with University should be explored and encouraged.
At this critical juncture it is important to get people together to look at sustainability, clean technologies and economic growth in the region and how the entire economic ecosystem can work together to build the future they want to see.
Thanks to our advisory group member Janice Larson, Director of the Tri-University Partnership for UBC Okanagan, for hosting the event, and bringing together this engaged group of people for this dynamic discussion.