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Climate innovation hub takes root in innovation centre

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
February 8th, 2022

The city is launching the Nelson Innovation Centre, again.

But this time the Nelson Innovation Centre (NIC) is taking up the mantle as a climate innovation hub, with the goal of making it a “thriving hub of activity, ideas and collaboration” for climate action for both the community and the technology and entrepreneur community.

This will be the third grand opening of NIC, with the initial grand opening paired down to a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then there was a soft opening in the summer of 2020, said Cecilia Jaques, city climate and energy advisor.

Through a partnership with Kootenay Association of Science and Technology (KAST) and the City of Nelson, the space was transformed to emphasize sustainability and a clean future, she said told city council recently in a committee-of-the-whole Zoom meeting.

“The vision for this climate innovation hub is really about trying to bring together all of the different people in our community who are working on climate action,” Jaques said. “That is really important for our technology centre because we know that a lot of our climate action programs are technology focused as well.”

The NIC was built to create a central community hub for entrepreneurs and businesses to connect with one another and get the support they need through programming and referral services to take their businesses to a new level.

The manager of KAST’s NIC, Melanie Fontaine, said the climate innovation hub would blend into the idea of the innovation centre.

“So underlying every new technology or innovative idea there would still have to be that concept of sustainability and ensuring that our economic growth as a community is directly connected to our goals as a healthy and safe city and taking action against climate change,” she said.

“The creation of the partnership would greatly increase its impact on the community, its value to the city and its ability to find innovative solutions to local issues.”

The innovation hub will also keep the city competitive and current with all of the grant applications it continually seeks, said Jaques.

Once it is operating, the hub is expected to regularly host in-person, hands-on demonstrations and information highlighting the city’s climate action programs (organics diversion, active transportation, home energy retrofits).

As well, it will have dedicated hours for residents to drop-in and learn what’s available and how to get involved, said Jaques, with a public engagement space for meetings and events (active transportation engagement, Nest Lab, organics diversion, Energy Program, contractors, community groups).

Coun. Janice Morrison had some concerns around the climate innovation hub.

“As I look at this it seems to me like we’ve given off our (climate action) plan to the private sector to implement, and if that’s the case I wonder how we as the city continue to have control over the our public plan?” she asked.

Jaques said the city was not handing off its plan.

“This is a way of elevating the programming we are delivering and using it as a tool to really drive up participation in our climate action program by making us more competitive in our grant applications by inviting the public in to have a conversation,” she said.

The hub would offer engagement on all city climate action programs there — like FireSmart — not just climate action.

“This makes sense for our team because this is a place that is already well equipped and becoming known as a hub for technology, and because of the overlaps between the clean technology centre and our climate action goals, we just see this as a really beneficial and harmonious relationship for us,” Jaques said.

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