Waterloo, Canada Intelligent Community of the Year
Intelligent Community Forum (IFC) named Waterloo, Ontario, Canada as recipient of its 2007 Intelligent Community of the Year award. The city of 115,000 people is the smallest, geographically speaking, of seven cities that make up Canada’s Technology Triangle. But with only 10% of the labor force in the Triangle, it accounts for 45% of job growth and is home to 40% of the high-tech firms in the region.
The selection was based on in-depth research and analysis and the votes of an independent committee of experts from around the world.
According to ICF, the community’s success illustrates the power of getting a few critical things right and then working together over the long haul to nurture and manage the resulting success. The first and most important step took place at the University of Waterloo, founded in 1960 by two businessmen who saw an opportunity to create a high-level technical institution to train local business leaders. In the 1970s, the University established an intellectual property policy that was unheard of in its day: it allowed students and faculty members to own rights in intellectual property they developed at the University.
When the introduction of the personal computer began a decades-long wave of ICT growth, Waterloo was positioned to benefit. Investors have poured C$1.8 billion (US$1.5bn) into acquiring privately-held technology companies in the area over the past decade, and the region is home to 10% of successful IPOs on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In Waterloo, 75% of adults use the Internet, while 76% of businesses and 47% of households are on broadband.
ICF does not, however, present its top community award for past achievement. “Most important to us,” said ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla, who made the announcement at the Intelligent Community of the Year Awards Luncheon,
is that Waterloo has never stopped raising the bar. Waterloo’s government has engaged actively with business and citizens in planning for a prosperous future. It introduced the award-winning Waterloo Information Network in 1998, and offers a wide range of online services to better connect government and its stakeholders. They are active in CAP, the national program that places Internet access terminals in public locations. Most importantly, the community has an extraordinary culture of collaboration and reinvestment. People in Waterloo make partnership a priority and are eager to give back to the entire community.
Examples include the many research institutes founded by successful Waterloo entrepreneurs, company donations that have turned Waterloo’s libraries into ICT learning centers, a Launchpad $50K Venture Creation Competition for students, researchers and citizens run by two universities, and the Waterloo Region Immigrant Employment Network.