| 5 minute read

Driving innovation through co-location at Carleton University

Elena Galán-Muros
Pathway to impact podcast series header

Join us for a conversation with Sandra Crocker, Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Operations at Carleton University, as we explore Carleton University’s innovative approach to enhancing strategic partnerships, including their co-location initiatives that foster community integration and connectivity. Tune in to learn about the pillars of Carleton’s strategic integrated plan and the dynamic role of partnerships in achieving sustainability, wellness, and connectivity.

In this article, we summarise part of that conversation, but you can listen to the full interview in our podcast:

Also available on:

Driving Innovation through Co-location at Carleton University

Sarah Jaber:
To kick-off this conversation, I’d love to hear more about Carleton University and your recently published strategic integrated plan. What are your motivations for partnerships?

Sandra Crocker:
Our new strategic integrated plan was built on two pillars: Sustainability, meaning the health of the planet, which is both natural and built environment. And wellness, referring to the health of individuals, that is both mental and physical, and how the social, cultural, and economic factors impact that.

When we went to operationalise the strategic integrated plan in our academic and our research planning, we added a third pillar of connectivity. This promotes a positive relationship with the world around us, as well as emphasises a fundamental cornerstone of Carleton’s culture: It was born from a community.

The notion of connectivity recognises the importance of understanding the ways that we connect, in person or online, with our partners, innovators, and the diverse populations around the globe.

The third pillar is where the partnership, the community and the engagement piece comes in principle.

When we build strategic partnerships, we focus on three things: Research and development, talent, and branding and corporate social responsibility. Those three elements need to be present if we are actually building a strategic integrated partnership.

Sarah Jaber:
Talking about community and is something that I have noticed with Canadian universities, especially. This very strong sense of “we are part of the community and we want to be integrated with our external environment.

But coming back to the pillars, when you talk about strategic partnerships, do they have to address all three of them?

Sandra Crocker:
It usually winds up looking a bit like a matrix. We have four levels of partnership, and those levels represent a level of investment that the partner makes. Depending on the level, we would look at several factors, like the potential matching funds that we could secure for that investment, the number of faculty and grad students or fellows that would be involved, whether there’s an opportunity for the partner to get involved in capstone projects, whether there’s an opportunity for them to impact course selection and content, etc.

Depending on where they sit on the matrix, they might have two members of faculty and some course impact, but maybe not the other things. Then we operationalise that under each of those pillars slightly differently.

Sarah Jaber:
One approach that you have taken is co-location. What have you done in that space to strengthen your partnerships?

Sandra Crocker:
We have undertaken four separate co-location activities all with a sort of different purpose.

  1. We purchased something called Dominion Chalmers Center, downtown in Ottawa, which is an arts and culture centre. It already had a thriving community engaged with it and it also supports something called City Studio, an ecosystem initiative with four universities that come together with the municipal council. In there, the city identifies challenges, which we then match with students and faculty, and they implement those solutions in conjunction with the with the city staff. The facility is heavily used and works very well.
  2. The second facility is something called Area X.O, which is a 50-acre autonomous research test track. We rent space there and it supports robotics, automotive and unmanned aerial vehicles research. Area X.O doesn’t work that well, I think mainly due to its distance from campus, and it also tends to be used only for specific projects, so there is no ongoing activity. It’s unfortunate because there are a lot of companies out there that are testing their vehicles, but we have not optimized our use of that.
  3. Third facility is one on main campus, which is a co-location facility for partners and research only. There’s no teaching in that facility and the partners take space, but they don’t pay rent, so they engage in research collaborations. The space expands and contracts based on the needs of the collaboration.
  4. The fourth one is a co-location facility that we have in our tech park, which is Canada’s largest tech park. It has 540 companies, dominated by technology companies, aerospace and defense. There are significant global leaders like Erickson, Nokia, Sienna, Lockheed Martin, etc., has 33,000 employees and 13 billion in GDP. We looked at that park and thought we need a presence there to be able to capitalise on the wealth of potential R&D going on, so the facility that we have there is a combination of purpose built and rent. We rent the space and we outfitted it for the university and it’s pan-campus, so it is along those lines of the strategic partnership model where we are supporting talent, R&D and branding.

Ready for more?

Learn all about how Florida Atlantic University plays a pivotal role in connecting academia with regional economic developers to drive innovation and support small businesses in their State in our episode The power of Innovation Districts: How to build stronger communities.

If you missed the UIIN Conference, you can learn more about our local host, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, and how they have worked hard to build Madrid’s innovation ecosystem since their early beginnings.

Stay tuned for the next episode on this series and don’t forget to follow us on your preferred podcast platform!

Go to overview