Mar 30, 2011

Study finds high level interest in an Eastern Ontario Sustainability Cluster

As part of our initial explorations of Phase II for our work, we have just completed with Ralph Torrie and Fiona Wright an initial study on the feasibility of creating or encouraging a sustainability cluster in Eastern Ontario.

Here are some of our conclusions:

A cluster is a reasonably understood geographic model for economic development, and Silicon Valley in California is a classic example. Other examples would be the Research Triangle in North Carolina, or Kanata in Ottawa West in IT and telecommunications.

Selecting Eastern Ontario as a geographic area of concentration for sustainability makes sense from a number of perspectives, including demographics, natural and ecological resources, presence of educational and research institutions, and, as the survey in this report shows, a large number of interested individuals and organizations working towards the goal of sustainable economic renewal.

An electronic survey was sent to 176 stakeholders, of which 27% responded. By most standards, this is considered to be a very high response rate, and is indicative of the high level of interest by these stakeholders in the proposed initiative. Respondents came from all over the region, including some outside Eastern Ontario, and included governments, financial institutions, businesses and corporations, and associations, networks, and NGOs. The survey was complemented with in-depth interviews with a selected sample of opinion leaders.

There is a high interest in sustainability in the region, judging by the significantly high level of response, the type of sustainability projects identified, and the response to various questions in the survey and the interviews.

There is a varying degree of awareness of market-based instruments (“MBI”s) to promote sustainability. This is based on the degree of recognition of a list of more than 50 MBIs presented in the survey, where fees and pricing strategies appear more prevalent than tax-related measured and outright incentives.

All respondents in the survey and the interviews were in favour of the idea of a cluster supported or facilitated by a central hub.

They also strongly suggest that the cluster address other sustainability challenges including water, water quality, waste generation and recycling, toxics and industrial hazardous waste.

Services or support that a hub could provide include:

  • Access to financing and government programs
  • Quantitative analysis of projects and provision of common information
  • Finding partners for DSM projects
  • Generation of economic and performance indicators, including job creation
  • Better access and communication with other players in the region.

In short, there is a wealth of interest and pent-up demand to start building a more systematic network or sustainability cluster in the region.

More to follow…

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