On the day the federal government kicked off its Smart Cities Challenge, the South Island Prosperity Project was gearing up for its own innovation project to identify the key challenges facing the region.
The Smart South Island Symposium on Saturday at the Victoria Conference Centre will bring together 300 people from various sectors to determine which issues are most in need of solving.
Emilie de Rosenroll, the project’s executive director, said the idea is to develop a plan of attack first rather than getting distracted by a national competition. “We want to make sure we’re not held up by the national challenge, that it acts as a catalyst or accelerator for what we are doing,” she said. “We are more concerned about getting people to figure out the challenges we are trying to solve, and how being smarter will help solve the challenges.
“The focus is now on understanding our challenges, after that the technology solution comes pretty easily.”
The federal Smart Cities Challenge offers communities a chance to compete for money to fund innovative ideas that address issues and improve the lives of people living in a city or region.
There is one prize of up to $50 million available to all communities; two prizes of up to $10 million available to communities with fewer than 500,000 residents, and one prize of up to $5 million available to communities with under 30,000 residents.
De Rosenroll said the hope is through this weekend’s symposium and the partnerships formed through working on new ideas that the priorities for the south Island will be identified and a proposal will be created to compete in the national program.
At the same time, the project will be run its own innovation challenge. It will offer three prizes of $15,000 each to the best ideas that address local issues and make the south Island a better place to live.
That challenge will wrap with a Dragon's Den-style event on March 11, where the best ideas are pitched to a panel in front of an audience.