Vancouver to let tech entrepreneurs use city property to demonstrate innovations

Entrepreneurs will get access to parkades, city works yards and parking metres, among other city assets with the introduction of the new green and digital demonstration program| Photo: Shutterstock

Tech entrepreneurs looking to demonstrate their innovations to potential clients will soon have access to city assets.

That means any green or digital technologies that could be used for parkades, city works yards or even parking metres are up for grabs.

“Name anything the city has,” said Ian McKay, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC).

“The possibilities are quite extraordinary.”

The VEC and the City of Vancouver began accepting applications to the green and digital demonstration program (GDDP) January 20.

There is no cap on the number of companies that can apply to the GDDP and the successful applicants, who will get access to relevant city assets for 18 months, must bear any costs incurred for the use of the city property. Applicants will be accepted following a March pitch session.

Applicants are limited to Vancouver-based companies specializing in either green or digital technologies but McKay said further down the road he would like to open up the program to companies from other cities.

“This has been tried by a whole bunch of cities around the world and quite frankly it hasn’t ended well in many cases,” he said.

“The secret for this program…is you have to engage the city early and often in the whole life cycle of the program. The asset owners, the engineering department, the legal department. You can’t just take the city by surprise.”

It’s not the first time the City of Vancouver has allowed its assets to be used for green technologies.

A failed urban farm, Alterrus, built a vertical farm on top of a city-owned downtown parkade in 2012.

The farm's greenhouse remained at the top of the parkade when the company went bankrupt in 2014, preventing EasyPark, a non-profit authority that manages city-owned or -leased parkades, from using the roof.

Will Jung, CEO of BokoEco, is hopeful the GDDP will lead potential clients to his company’s Osimfy product through ongoing demonstrations at city sites.

BokoEco was accepted into the pilot GDDP late last year and will begin demonstrating its probiotic odour-reduction and pest-repellant product at Carnegie Community Centre in the coming weeks.

“I would consider that probably the worst area for odours and flies in probably all of the city’s assets,” Jung said, adding the city’s ban on tossing organics has also helped amplify odours across Vancouver.

While BokoEco has been conducting demonstrations at De Dutch restaurant, he said access to the Carnegie Community Centre has led to talks with Harvest Power and EasyPark.

“The City of Surrey has expressed interest and we’ve say, ‘Once we get it going we can see how it works.’ We can invite other hotels and restaurants to also see how it works.”