Ecosystem-based approaches harness the power of diverse expertise, technologies and partners in support of shared goals.
Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and smart mobility solutions are among the most exciting opportunities for smart cities in the decade ahead. They are also emblematic of the approach required to create all kinds of resilient services and solutions. Ecosystem-based approaches achieve impact by harnessing the power of diverse expertise, technologies and partners in support of shared goals. This fusion facilitates the sharing and refining ideas, novel technology development and business collaboration, and ultimately the creation of visionary solutions, services and market opportunities.
Area X.0 is just one success story of a powerful ecosystem approach. Buoyed by the highest concentration of tech talent per capita in North America, this Ottawa-based facility enables and accelerates the safe and secure development, testing, demonstration, and implementation of a secure environment that is trialling future smart mobility and autonomy and connected technologies. The emerging innovations and solutions span many sectors from intelligent transportation and telecom to smart agriculture, defence, aerospace, public safety, and smart cities. It is made possible by visionary leadership, a thriving technology ecosystem, and collaboration among world-class public and private partners.
SmartCitiesWorld recently caught up with Sonya Shorey, Chief Strategy, Marketing and Communications Officer at Invest Ottawa, the company behind Area X.0, to discuss this innovation, its impact on the community and global markets, and the importance of the ecosystem approach. Below is an extract from the video interview and has been edited for clarity and length
SmartCitiesWorld: Can you introduce us to the work Area X.0 does?
Sonya Shorey, Chief Marketing Officer, Invest Ottawa: We’ve coined it as the futureplex of innovation and collaboration. It really enables innovators from every sector and scientific discipline – start-ups scaleups, SMEs, multinationals and government partners – to join us to create, test, validate, demonstrate and implement next-generation smart mobility, autonomy and connectivity technologies.
SCW: Area X.0 is home to every kind of connected and autonomous vehicle you can think of, from smart farming to drones back to connected railway. Why is this technology so pertinent?
Shorey: Smart mobility technologies, connectivity and autonomy, are very, very critical to our future They create a wealth of opportunity to address some of the grand challenges and opportunities we face as a planet and as a society. I think that there are many environmental, economic and societal benefits that can be gained, provided they are implemented carefully and safely...These technologies have massive potential to reduce our carbon footprint, create cleaner, greener communities [and] address the rural-urban divide with novel first and last-mile solutions.
SCW: When you launched it was in partnership with a diverse ecosystem of partners. Why do you think this ecosystem approach works so well?
Shorey: We simply could not have achieved anything with Area X.0 without the myriad of outstanding world-class partners that have contributed their time, knowledge, expertise, capabilities and technologies to this initiative. This collaboration was critical to helping us fulfil our vision for Area X.O; bring smart mobility, connectivity and autonomous innovation to life; and see it implemented safely.
SCW: One of these partners was Accenture and it has played a key role throughout. Can you talk about what you achieved by working with them?
Shorey: Accenture is a world leader. They bring such deep knowledge and expertise and a network of information that they can bring to bear that we could never have in isolation. Together we undertook something that I don’t think I’ve seen any other economic development agency do: develop, implement and operate technology and R&D infrastructure to drive new economic, social and environmental opportunity and impact.
Area X.O is a truly bold vision and collaboration that is outside the typical scope of an organisation such as Invest Ottawa. We believe it will deliver immense value to the innovators, firms, and community we serve and help drive our economic recovery and growth. We also hope this collaborative model serves as a potential blueprint for future strategic economic development initiatives.
It was essential for us to partner with a leader such as Accenture, so that we could get a lot of those fundamentals with respect to our business and operating model right, and set us up for something that could be sustainable, something that could grow and continually evolve to increase market opportunity and impact, whether environmental, economic, and certainly social.
SCW: Where next for CAVs and smart mobility at Area X.0?
Shorey: As we emerge from this pandemic, it’s never been more important for us to leverage technology and innovation as a driver for economic recovery. There are so many different opportunities we’re really zeroing in over the next few years – smart mobility, smart farming, defence, security and public safety. [We want] to put a little bit of a focus on the types of opportunities where we feel we can double down with innovators and firms in our region and look at some of those big challenges that we’re tackling as a planet as we emerge from the pandemic.