SUMMERSIDE – Initially considered an abstract concept, the idea of a ‘living lab’ is taking shape in the City of Summerside.
The goal of the living lab model will help establish a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that will benefit the community now and in the future.
“When we first announced it was a bit of an abstract concept,” said Mike Thususka, director of the city’s economic development department. “We’ve had some good traction in trying to move it forward. We’ve talked a lot about the philosophy and approach of how as we as leaders in the community approach purchasing and how we approach trying to grow our community. Economic development is obviously changing. It’s no longer just about the physical land. It’s all about the amenities, the infrastructure and the philosophy that the community has as it tries to grow.”
Officials say the city is well poised to see growth in this area, with its wind farm, Heat for Less program, its electric utility and its commitment to the use and support of electric vehicles.
Now the city has partnered with Renewz.
Renewz has extensive management experience in offering unique and tailored solutions to help partners execute strategic sustainable initiatives while minimizing capital investments.
“Part of what we’re trying to do from an economic development standpoint is assemble a team that will build some capacity in our organization, to build some technical expertise in our organization,” said Thususka. “Part of our challenge is we don’t have all of that technical expertise. We know that some of these initiatives are being run elsewhere but they are not linked, they are not co-ordinated. It’s challenging for use where they are not.”
Sass Peress, CEO of Renewz and Laura Boroditsky, the company’s chief operating officer, offered their thoughts for the future of Summerside to city council Tuesday night.
“We met Mike (Thususka) a few months ago when he was searching for some support in how to strategically engage and employ the living lab in a manner which would help Summerside distinguish itself and create a reputation and start to bring goods and knowledge into the community for a strategy for economic development,” Peress said.
“We’re trying to foster an environment of excellence in creating actionable strategy which is going to be employed and is going to benefit the community, not just within the city limits but also on the exteriors.”
He said the fact that the city has control over its data pipeline and energy pipeline is “a blessing for the city because it allows you to create strategies and deploy and develop technology-based solutions for the community which also are examples of living labs for the rest of the world to see.”
Renewable energy is a key element to any plan.
“We have energy creation and energy storage which becomes a very important component to the future of the city,” Peress said. “We look at different kinds of energy storage devices. We look at different kinds of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure that will permit the fleet of Summerside to participate in the future.”
Peress said common sense is an important consideration when approaching the living lab.
He said finding the right technology to attract people to Summerside is key, and added involving the youth in the project is another important component as well as the private sector.
The work in Summerside will involve projects that are actionable and visible and will set the city at the foreground of living lab technology and reduce the dependency on fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources.