Bryan Paterson

Our Role in an Innovation Ecosystem

TBOP2017 ⋅ 23:02 ⋅ Filmed May 11, 2017

As the host of the first-ever The Breakout Project, Kingston Ontario is a city on the brink. Backed by a rich history, it is rapidly becoming a top innovation hub in North America. As Mayor of Kingston who has played an active role in propelling the city towards its lofty new position as changemaker and technology leader, Bryan Paterson shares a few words of wisdom about what innovation means for a community.

In his keynote, Mayor Paterson discusses the principles and ideas that have guided he and the many participants who are helping to push Kingston in the direction of innovation. Citizens needs to elect governments that have a strong vision and will invest in infrastructure, technology, and people. Most importantly, we need to organize. Challenge. Participate. We need to make our voices heard to identify the challenges and needs of the community — so that we can work towards solutions together.

The most dangerous thinking, Paterson contends, is thinking that we cannot change. Just one of the many efforts he is part of to help inspire and motivate innovative thinkers and changemakers is the new Mayor’s Innovation Challenge, which calls on citizens to identify a community problem and come up with out-of-the-box ways to solve it. The winners will receive internships at the City of Kingston and resources to pilot their ideas.

Can your city do that?

Further Reading


How amazing that here, in one of the most historic sites in Canada, we are talking about the power of innovation. And I think it's amazing how fitting that in a place of history we're talking about making history. So what I want to do if I can for a few minutes this morning, is talk about the power of innovation and what it can mean for a city and a community in the 21st century. I'm going to draw from some of the things that are happening in our City of Kingston — one of the most historic, one of the oldest cities in Canada — that is embracing the power of innovation because in a place of history, we're going to make history.


[00:49] I'm going to walk you through a few different ideas and principles about what I think is important to embracing that power of innovation. The first thing that you need if you want to embrace innovation, you need a vision. Vision that we have here in Kingston is to build a smart, livable 21st century city. When people ask me what does that mean, I talk about the importance of being a leading city. We want to be on the front lines, we want to be on the cutting edge. We want the place where the newest ideas, the newest techniques, the newest methods are being put in place so that we can make not just our city and our community but other communities and societies that much stronger that much better for everyone.

[01:39] I think about this quote that I found from Steve Jobs. It says, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower" and I believe that that's true not only for individuals but it's true for businesses, it's true for organizations, it's true for cities. If you want to be a leading city, you need to be able to embrace innovation. So how do you do that? Well, here are some of the things that we've had to do here in Kingston.

Shifting View

[02:09] First of all, we've had to shift our view. When we talk about shifting our view, we're talking about going from on the left, would be a regional mindset where we would see Kingston within a region of a few hours drive in Eastern Ontario to continental mindset to a global mindset. And I really believe that one of the most amazing impacts from technology is that it's leveling the playing field. And so, in the 21st century city, you don't need to be a New York, or a London, or a Shanghai to make a global impact. You can be a smaller city. Kingston has a population of about 125,000 people, you add in our post-secondary population, we might get up to 150,000 but with technology we can make a global impact simply by identify what are our key assets and then leveraging and maximizing them to the fullest.

[03:09] So we need to shift our view.

Setting the Example

[03:11] Here's the next thing that I believe that any city needs to need if it wants to embrace the power of innovation. The city itself needs to set the example in embracing innovation. So how does a city do that? When I talk about a city, I'm talking about the municipal services, the city departments that run all of those things that make a city function. The first thing, you can see just over on the left, is you need to be able to invest in infrastructure. Now the funny thing is that if you talk to any mayor or talk to anybody that's involved in city government, they'll say that infrastructure is the bread and butter of any city. Traditionally that meant, roads and bridges and street lights and sewer pipes. If you want to invest in infrastructure for 21st century city, you also need to think about technology infrastructure.

[04:09] A number of years ago we invested in fiber because we knew that in order for institutions and our businesses to be able to compete, if we wanted to create an environment where technology startups could come to Kingston and develop their businesses and thrive, we needed to have that technology backbone that was available. So as a city through our municipal utility, we chose to invest in fiber. Now we have other private companies that are coming in and they can provide it too but the nice thing is we've got competition. We've also have redundancy which anybody that runs a technology company knows how important it is to able to have more than one source to be able to have that technology backbone.

Information & Communication Technologies

[04:50] Something else that you need to invest in as a city is information and communication technologies that quite simply make it easier for your residents understand and know what going on in your community. One of the examples that we introduced a couple of years ago is something called DASH. It's the Development and Services Hub. It used to be that you if you were a citizen in a community like Kingston and you wanted to know what was going on in the latest developments if somebody was going to build a new condominium or apartment complex or new commercial plaza, you needed to read the newspaper and look for a public notice that would tell you about a public meeting that was going on on such and such a date in the evening at a room in City Hall. You had to adjust your schedule to get down there and be able to sit through a couple of hours of presentations before you finally got the information that you were looking for.

[05:43] Now, in Kingston, we have this online system where you can go when it's convenient for you, whenever you want, however much time you have, you go on the system you can bring up a map of the city. You can zone in on our neighbourhood, you can look at what's going on around your neighbourhood, down the street, across the city. You can click on those development applications that are updated in real time, find out exactly what's going on in the city. And it's just a far more convenient way to know about what's going on in the city.

[06:14] This is the sort of thing that technology can do. It can make a city more livable and more convenient so that everyone can be more engaged with what's going on in their community.

Investing in Data

[06:24] Something else that we're investing in. So you can invest in technology infrastructure. You can in invest in technologies that make communication and information exchange easier. You can also invest in data. One of the things that we know is that your average citizen, certainly in Kingston and I'm sure it's true for any city, they want to know when is the bus coming to pick them up? When is the garbage truck going to pick up their garbage? And in the winter, which we experience for several months every year, when is the snow plow going to come and shovel my street so I can get out and get to work?

[06:59] We have invested in the technology to be able to keep track of these kinds of movements in these key city vehicles but what we're doing is embracing the power of open data and putting all that information out there and inviting innovators to come and to use that data to develop, for example a Smartphone application where you can just go on your phone then you can track when is the garbage truck coming? When is the snow plow coming? When is your bus coming to pick you up? This is the sort of thing [that] by investing in the data, we empower innovators in our community to be able to do great things with that data. Analyze it and to use it for social good.

Investing in People

[07:41] Up until now, everything that I've talked about is about investing in infrastructure or technology but, and I think we've heard this from the teams we've heard before, if you really want to make key investments to allow for innovation in your community, you need to be able to invest in people. And so as a city, we're taking the lead investing in people in our communities. Let me give you an example.

[08:11] We have young people in our city that are on social assistance. Maybe they've come from a background where their parents are on social assistance. They come from a background where maybe that was the norm. We want to give them a vision to be able to take a different path. To have the confidence and experience of what it is to able to have employment, to be able to go and contribute in a powerful way to be able to earn income, to be able to be contributors to help build the community. They need that first chance. They need somebody that's going to take a chance on them and give them that first opportunity. So as a city we are setting the example. We're providing internships for young people on social assistance in city departments. We're saying, 'hey, come have a few months where you can work alongside city employees and learn the city business and you can experience what employment is and build that confidence and out something on your resume that going to make it easier for you to get that next job.

[09:14] We're investing and internships and co-op programs and other entry level positions for our amazing student population that we have here in the city because we understand they are incredible asset to us so we want to provide those opportunities. If the city can provide those opportunities and we give them that experience that they can then move on and find other employment opportunities. Those are the sorts of investments you need to make. Not just in infrastructure, not just in technology, not just in data but in people as well.

Connecting Local Innovators to Community Needs

[09:45] So the city sets the example but there's something else that needs to happen in a community so that's the next theme. You need to be able to find a way to connect local innovators with needs in your community. We're very fortunate here in Kingston because we have three amazing post-secondary institutions — Queen's University, St. Lawrence College and Royal Military College. We've got a lot of amazing smart young people that are right here in our community and they're learning about the latest techniques and technologies and information. What we want to able to do is connect them to some of the existing needs that we have in our city, really that any city would have.

PhD-Community Initiative

[10:31] So here's an example, I'll start here on the left. We have non-profit organizations in our city. These are non-profits that do great work in our community each and every day but if you've ever been a part of a non-profit you know that there are often challenges on a daily basis. Maybe it's trying to ramp up your fundraising, increase your footprint in the community, trying to be more efficient in your operations, trying to market and raise awareness of what it is that you do — there are these challenges that we know our non-profits face. On the other side, we have these PhD students in our post-secondary institutions that are doing all this great work. We have something that's being rolled out in Kingston. Something called the PhD-Community Initiative to be able to link the two together. It's great for the PhD student because then you get applied experience that is great obviously for your research and your career development. It also helps the non-profit to be able to become that much more efficient and effective in the community.


[11:30] Something else. Another need that we know that is very relevant in our city and many other communities is how do we encourage more women to embrace the power of entrepreneurship. How do we find a way to be able to get young women the confidence, the resources, the mentorship, the knowledge that they need to be able to take their creative ideas and skills that they have and be able to implement them, startup new businesses and be able to make incredible impacts socially and beyond communities?

[12:02] One of things, if that's the need, one of the things that we've seen really bubble up from a grassroots level, is a young female entrepreneur who's basically has a vision for this and she started a program called, FEiST. Female Entrepreneurs in Small Towns. It's all about networking, mentorship and bringing women together to be able to share and to mentor each other. Providing resources and knowledge, finances — all of those things that you need to be success as an entrepreneur to be able to encourage more entrepreneurship.

Providence Care

[12:35] Here's another need. What do you do when you have people in your community that are faced with social isolation? What do we do to help, for example, people in our community that grappling with mental health issues? Or those in our community that are faced with challenges connected to chronic and complex conditions that require long-term care. We have a hospital here on our waterfront in Kingston, it's called Providence Care. It was an old hospital that was there for many years and it was really interesting because the hospital on the waterfront and right next to it was one of the most popular community parks that we have in the City of Kingston, called Lake Ontario Park. Right in between them was this giant chain link fence. It basically spoke about a separation. There were those in the community facing these difficult challenges, they were on one side of the fence. Then you had all of the young families and everybody else that was coming out to enjoy the park, they were on the other side of the fence.

[13:41] This is a good example of how innovation is a lot more than just technology. Sometimes innovation is just in terms of planning and how you can invest in people. When we were at the point where we want to build a new hospital, one of the things we did in the early phases, what Providence Care did was that they brought in some innovators in the design [world] and said, 'how can we improve the quality of life for our patients and residents that are in this hospital?' They keyed in on something. When they built the new hospital, not only are they going to take the chain link fence down, but they actually designed it in such a way so that the hospital has it's cafeteria that kind of opened up right next to the community park. So all the young families and people that are coming down just to enjoy day down at Lake Ontario Park, they can actually come in and they're invited to this terrace where they can come and grab a bit to eat, they can mingle with the patients and the residents that are there. The patients and the residents can come out, they can walk into the terrace, they can enjoy the park. Where you go from social isolation, now you have integration of the community that improves the quality of life for everyone.

[14:51] That what happens when you can connect local innovators with community needs.

Harnessing the Power of Innovation Through City/Community Partnerships

[14:58] Now, what will gets me excited so not just when the city takes the lead in setting the example of innovation. Not just when we have community innovation and local innovators that are being connected with other organizations and other needs. It's when we embrace the power of partnership by putting the city together with other community organizations and then we can do some pretty exciting things.


[15:24] I'm going to give you some examples of some of the partnerships that we have here and we've developed here in the City of Kingston. One of the them, is with a startup technology company, called DocuPet. Now DocuPet is a young company that's developed an online system for registering pets. So if you've got a dog or a cat at home, you can go online, you can register them, you can obtain a license. They have this really cool feature online where if your dog or cat runs away, you can go online and you can click this link called 'Lost Pets' and enter your information and immediately it sends out an alert to everybody that would be in the surrounding region, the community, to be a go out and be able to find your lost dog or pet. You have to go to all the street posts and have a picture of your pet with phone numbers and post it on all the streetlights in your neighbourhood.

[16:20] On the other hand, we you have a city like Kingston, which I'm sure most cities can identify with this, where you have generally a low rate of licensing and registration for pets. Quite frankly, when you have lost pets it's a lot of expense for the city. Having to put money into the pound services to then when you have them, be able to house them and hoping that the pet owners are able to find where theirs [is] and be able to reunite with them but a lot of the times that doesn't work.

[16:47] So here's the partnership. We have a company here in Kingston that's developed this cool product. As a city we have a need. So we're going to provide an opportunity for them to be able to test and pilot their technology here in Kingston. And it works out! Not only does the city now have a much higher rate of licensing and registration for pets, but we've created and provided DocuPet with the experience that they need so that that can go now to other municipalities and they can sell their product. They can say 'you know what? In our home town of Kingston, they gave us the chance to pilot this and it's going great so you can trust our product'. DocuPet has had tremendous success. They are in a number of cities now across the province and beyond. I know that they're into other countries as well providing this service that really and municipality would be interested in.

[17:36] That's the power of partnership. Where the city can locate and we can see here's a technology startup company, they have a product that we can use, we're going to give them the chance and help them to spur on their way to great success which obviously is something that we're very interested in.

Workforce Development

[17:52] Something else, another example of partnership. Deals with the development of our workforce. Making sure that we've got the people that we need here in our city that are going to fill the jobs tomorrow. On the one side, you have institutions — like our hospitals, like our long-term care facilities — that need to hire nurses. And then you have the city. Well, we have a long-term care facility. We need to hire nurses. So what's happening is that we're all trying to hire nurses but there's a problem because right now in the City of Kingston, we need more nurses. So what's happening is that institutions and different businesses and organizations are bidding against each other for a small pool of people. So we're just basically taking them from each other and really the large issue is we as a community need to come together and say, 'how can we solve this bigger issue by increasing the overall supply of nurses, for example, in our community?'

[18:50] This is the power of partnership. Where all these employers will come together. We have data, coming back to my earlier point, investing in the data we need to quickly identify where are the needs? Where are the labour needs in our community? And then having all of our employers work together so then say, 'OK, what do we need to do to address the overall supply?' Maybe we need to go to our post-secondary institutions and ensure we're getting more of an intake of young people into the programs that will have the skills that we need to be able to fill that supply. Maybe, we need to be going to other larger centres and be able to recruit and say, 'hey, you need to come here to Kingston. Here's what we can offer. Here's the quality of life that we can offer you' so that we have a larger supply of workers. That's the power of partnership.

Mayor's Innovation Challenge

[19:33] Now this last one, something I'm pretty excited about. It's called the Mayor's Innovation Challenge. So on the one side you have the city. As a city we face different challenges. We have different issues and problems, we're always trying to find better ways, more efficient ways to be able to provide our services. Maybe it's an Engineering problem. Maybe it's a Social Services challenge. Maybe it's an issue in our Arts & Culture community. Maybe it's a technology problem that we really feel like this is an issue and we really need to come up with a solution. On the other side, we have these post-secondary institutions with all these smart people that are developing their skills and looking for ways and applications to be able to take the knowledge and theory that they're learning in the classroom and be able to apply it.

[20:27] So the Innovation Challenge, is that as a city, we're going to identify these specific problems. We're going to roll out specific problems in a number of these different areas and then we're going to throw out the challenge to our students and faculty in our post-secondary institutions. We're going to have them compete against one another to come up with the best possible solution. And then, as a city, as long as it's a solution that's financially viable and meets the basic criteria we're going to look for, we're going to commit to pilot those ideas. We're also looking at offering internships with the city to the winning teams to be able to provide them the opportunity, to be able to work alongside city staff to implement these new solutions that have been developed.

Public Sector Innovation

[21:09] Now, remember I said earlier that one of things you need to do to make a global impact, is that you need as a city to find where's your strength, where are your assets and then you need to leverage those to the max. So Kingston is a public sector town that has a number of public sector institutions. So we've made a decision, we're going to embrace the power of public sector innovation which is really key sector. Any city will tell you that public sector innovation is critical, there's a huge market for that. So as a city we're going to take our assets and we're going to become leaders in public sector innovation. By cranking out these ideas year in and year out, we know that we're going to develop best practices that other cities and other communities across the province, the country and around the world are going to be looking to be able to adopt those practices in their communities.

Local Collaboration Makes Global Impact

[22:00] So when I talk about innovation, I think the theme that comes out is, that whether you're a large city or whether you're a smaller city, local collaboration can make a global impact. That is the lesson that we are learning here in the City of Kingston, Ontario, Canada. And perhaps this is the most important innovation that we're making, is being able to bring all of our agencies, our institutions, our organizations, our businesses and the city itself together to work in one strategic vision. All these partners so that we can move our community forward, together. Ladies and gentlemen, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk with you here this morning. Thank you so much and best of luck to all the teams. Have a great couple of days. Thank you so much!

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