Kelowna, B.C. is about to get its own $35 million innovation hub that brings together academic researchers, government property, and private sector players to boost entrepreneurship in the region, according to Accelerate Okanagan.
In a similar style of project to Toronto’s MaRS buildings and Waterloo, Ont.’s Communitech Hub, the building will be placed in Kelowna’s cultural district next to a library. Dubbed the Okanagan Centre for Innovation will offer nearly 10,000 square meters of space to an array of businesses, including small startup teams, large technology firms, non-profit organizations, community groups, and social enterprises. The stated goal is to help transition Kelowna’s economy from the traditional resource and manufacturing-base to a more modern knowledge-based economy.
Behind the project are the Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group, a for-profit firm of private investors interested in boosting the region’s innovation, and the Kelowna Innovation Society, a non-profit firm that operates the Okanagan Centre for Innovation’s public portion.
Kelowna’s entrepreneurial community has been on the rise for the past couple of years. In 2013, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Communities in Boom report placed eighth among top entrepreneurial cities with population greater than 150,000, compared to 15th place a year earlier.
No doubt the backers of the new hub will be looking to replicate some of the results seen resulting from Communitech’s efforts. A 2012 report from Deloitte Consulting found Communitech returned $14 for every $1 invested and created each new job for a cost of only $3,800. The hub had created 863 new startup firms and a total of 5,600 new jobs at that time.
Construction of the building is set to begin this summer and tenants are expected to occupy it by fall 2015.