Photo: Izabella Balcerzak

Ryerson takes a second shot at establishing a Niagara Falls innovation centre

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By Noushin Ziafati

In a previous statement to The Eyeopener, Ryerson’s public affairs office said the proposed innovation hub would bring start-ups, corporate partners and local community organizations together. The hub would also energize the growth of the downtown core of the city and the surrounding Niagara Region.

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said the new innovation hub in downtown Niagara Falls seems  to “perfectly fit in” with achieving a number of the city’s objectives, which were unanimously approved by city council. This includes youth attraction, youth retention, downtown redevelopment and job creation.  

According to Ryerson’s public affairs office, the second application was made to the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) on Sept. 28. The application was made in support by staff from the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, with input from Ryerson Futures Inc.

FedDev is one of six regional development agencies that helps support economic and community development by providing services such as investments, programs and expertise.

The first application that Ryerson made to FedDev was turned down in 2016.  

Diodati said that they are “in good company” because Ryerson’s first application for FedDev funding to establish the Ryerson Digital Media Zone (DMZ) in Toronto was not successful either, and yet, the DMZ was founded in 2010 and has since been ranked the leading university-based incubator in North America. 

He added that Ryerson has refined their application, by firming up additional partnerships and attempting to better match the criteria under the FedDev application.

As previously reported by The Eye, the initial application for the innovation centre sparked controversy, as the Ontario Ombudsman’s office concluded that the city of Niagara Falls violated the Municipal Act when it privately voted in favour of directing the council to proceed with the Ryerson partnership.

According to Diodati, a lot of things have been proprietary in regards to the first application as well as the second, due to competitiveness that both the City of Niagara Falls faces with other municipalities as well as Ryerson competing with other universities and colleges for funding and advancement. 

“So it’s very, very important that everybody doesn’t know all of your plans and council has been informed of this entire process…but certainly there are certain parts that are proprietary, that are confidential,” he said.

However, Niagara Falls chief administrative officer, Ken Todd, said that there was a public motion by city council that was approved to allow the city to continue to support Ryerson in moving forward with the second application. Todd said the mayor has also publicly stated that after the first application was not approved, that the city would pursue a second round of that application with Ryerson.