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Business - Written by on Friday, March 6, 2009 15:30 - 2 Comments

Strip of Yonge Street to become a “digital destination”

Reading the Toronto Star today, I came across this article that shows some much-needed forward thought from the Canadian university community.  In short, Ryerson University, the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo have agreed to a joint initiative to create a “Canadian Silicon Valley” over the next few years.  If all goes as planned, the strip of Yonge Street from Gould St. to Gerrard St. will be “a corridor of i-research and high-end digital stores all in one cluster that hums with activity.”  In the image below, I highlighted this area in Google Maps:  The proposed corridor would be a 200 metre stretch (from point A to B) located right downtown, conveniently situated between Ryerson and U of T.

digital-corridor1

As they note in the article, Southern Ontario has had its share of very successful companies in the creation of new technology tools, such as Waterloo’s own Research In Motion.  Now, it seems that top-level leadership is waking up to the massive growth potential that exists in getting people and companies to actually use all of the newly-available tools, something we’re constantly pushing here at nGenera.

Here’s an excerpt from Ken Coates, Dean of Arts at the University of Waterloo: 

“The new economy will be driven more by the use of technology than the making of technology,” he said, citing companies that are working to adapt the social network technology of Facebook and YouTube to the way they deal with staff and even clients.

“This is the fastest-growing sector the world has ever seen, and we want to bring together people from engineering, the humanities, performing arts and a range of disciplines to work together to solve real-world problems,” Coates said.

“Whoever can figure this out will be the leaders in the new economy. Our goal is to devise made-in-Toronto solutions for i-banking, i-business, i-news, i-industry, i-medicine and i-everything.”

When using government expenditures to help us out of this recession, this is exactly the type of initiative that I think we need.  Coming out of this recession and entering a new age, we need forward-thinking plans to make us economically competitive.  I can’t comment on the viability of this particular plan (I don’t have all of the specific details), but I will say that in principal, this type of thinking is on track. 

With all the front-page media debate surrounding how we can save the auto industry, we often lack the necessary focus on developing the new industries that will drive our growth in the future.  Well done, U of T, Ryerson and Waterloo, I hope this plan lives up to its promise.



2 Comments

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rob
Mar 10, 2009 9:07

Sounds like BS to me. All kinds of big Canadian talk, no actions.

Cole M
Apr 15, 2009 16:48

Alex,

I agree that this type of initiative is largely what we need to help spring us out of this recession and into a new era – Canada needs to step up and retain more technology savvy engineers, designers and business people before they leave for California and Europe. I am a business school graduate, but I also have a degree in computer science so working at such a place would be a dream come true – unfortunately, they may be aiming a little too high.

It is great for the universities to come together and for the University of Toronto to have the desire to offer a program that is “digitally-focused”, but why the stores? Why the desire to have our “Silicon Valley” in the biggest commercial area of the country? Would the Apple Store move from the Eaton Centre to north of Dundas? I doubt it. Would Bang & Olufsen move from Bloor? Unlikely. Why is there a need to combine high tech research and technology-focused stores?

Ottawa, for some time, was our “Silicon Valley” and in my opinion Waterloo has overtaken that position. The University of Waterloo offers one of the best educations, worldwide I might add, in the technology and engineering arena so why change focus to Toronto? When I think of Silicon Valley I think of corporate campuses consisting of many buildings on a large plot of land – downtown Toronto cannot offer this, but Waterloo can and has already established itself as a premiere place to start a technology firm.

Perhaps it is Ryerson, UofT and the City of Toronto that are trying to bring a bit of Waterloo to Toronto. It makes sense to offer education and research opportunities and that are relevant to these times, but I wonder how useful this location would be for the Canadian technology industry. Maybe a high speed train link between Waterloo and Toronto could bridge this business-technology gap.

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