Moncton’s Creative Juices Are Flowing In Race For $10-Million Smart City Grant

Downtown Moncton at night. Image: Inda Intiar/Huddle

MONCTON – As the Hub City prepares its final application for a chance to win $10 million through the Smart Cities Challenge, innovative ideas are brewing in the community.

Venn Innovation CEO Doug Robertson was a participant at the city’s brainstorming session in January. The session included stakeholders from various sectors to help Moncton come up with a challenge statement for its application.

“We’ll see how it comes out in the process, but one of the areas we talked about is what technologies and processes can we bring to help make our communities the most welcoming they can be for newcomers,” Robertson said.

“What kind of cool applications or technologies could you bring to bear to make it as painless and as easy as possible for newcomers, who have enough challenges as it is.”

There were also ideas on clean energy, mobility and new access spaces in downtown, he said.

The Smart Cities Challenge is a federal initiative launched by Infrastructure Canada that encourages communities to come up with digital solutions to improve the quality of life of its residents. The competition is open to municipalities, regional governments and Indigenous communities. Of the three tiers of financial prizes, Moncton qualifies for the $10-million prize tier.

Technology’s moving so fast, so it’s the practical, sensible, affordable way for communities to embrace digital and tech-based solutions, to make their communities more livable, more attractive, to save money, to be more green,” Robertson said.

He said the process to come up with a challenge statement for the application has brought about positive conversations.

“It’s a real community building process. I think that alone is a benefit. We already saw the coming together of stakeholders here in Moncton,” Robertson said.

“Some of it is really about the dialogue that happens, the big ideas that start to build in the community and the dreams that it can create,” said Nicole Melanson, the city’s communications manager.

Yves Doucet, the CEO of software firm Dovico, was also at the brainstorming session. He said it’s important that the city has a vision for what it wants to be.

“To me, the discussion that we had around the table is what does Moncton stand for and how do you use technology to enhance that vision, to propel it to the next level.”

Doucet said whether or not Moncton gets the grant, the community will still win.

“If the movement is big enough and powerful enough, it doesn’t matter if we win [the money], it matters if we’re gonna take care of it. And what I saw there in that group is the power to move forward.”

Doucet said his company has proposed an idea to the city in relation to the smart city project, but couldn’t provide details.

“We are a technology company so we can build software to help propel that vision. I’d be interested in that.”

Robertson is hoping Moncton’s participation in the challenge would create opportunities for early-stage startups and other businesses.

“Ideally, you’d get to engage the business community in helping to solve these technical challenges,” he said.

I hope coming out of this that there are opportunities for new entrepreneurs, for new companies to be formed. That’s obviously where we can play a role and that would be very exciting for us.”

The city recently completed its public consultation. It will now look at possible partners in the private sector. It will make its final application public after the submission deadline of April 24. If selected as a finalist, Moncton would get an initial funding of $250,000 to move to the next phase.

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