The southern Ontario cities of Guelph, London, and Barrie want to make it easier for businesses to contribute to municipal planning.

On Thursday, the municipalities announced the three-year Municipal Innovation Exchange (MIX) project, an initiative that will embed businesses into the municipal planning and operations process, “providing first-hand experience that will help [municipalities] develop solutions,” according to an April 12 press release.

“A broad scope of businesses will be able to participate, from large established vendors to small and medium enterprises such as start-ups and entrepreneurs often excluded from municipal procurement invitations and tenders,” the press release said.

The MIX initiative is based on Guelph’s Civic Accelerator, a pilot project co-developed with the University of Guelph’s Guelph Lab and Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District that was launched in 2016 and invites entrepreneurs, startups, students, and companies to create solutions for complex municipal problems.

Like the Civic Accelerator, the cities involved plan to use the MIX initiative to improve and expand innovation procurement in the municipal sector and “create practices that are tested, scalable and sustainable,” according to the release, with all three cities pledging to collaborate with vendors and community members alike “to design open, fair, transparent and innovative practices that will be tested through six challenges over the three-year project.”

The mayors of Guelph, Barrie, and London all praised the project in an April 12 statement.

“I’ve always said the six worst words in government are ‘we’ve always done it this way’,” Barrie mayor Jeff Lehman said. “We’re grateful to be able to partner with two other progressive municipalities on this exciting initiative.”

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