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SFU partners with the City of Burnaby to advance new Civic Innovation Lab

March 18, 2022
Photo of the Burnaby skyline from Deer Lake park.

Simon Fraser University is partnering with the City of Burnaby on a new initiative that will see their combined expertise and resources address the biggest challenges facing today’s cities.

Through the new Civic Innovation Lab, SFU will share its leading-edge research and strengths in innovation and sustainability to advance practical solutions for the city’s most pressing urban issues, from diversity and housing to sustainable growth and environmental challenges caused by climate change.

Over the long-term the initiative will provide the city with a permanent research base, where students and researchers apply their education and knowledge to develop real-world solutions, helping to solidify the city’s role as a leader in solving urban issues.

“From taking action against climate change to addressing reconciliation and equity, diversity and inclusion in a meaningful way, there are pressing challenges facing our cities today—challenges that SFU students and researchers are eager to tackle,” says SFU President Joy Johnson.

“This partnership gives SFU an exciting opportunity to deepen our decades-long relationship with the City of Burnaby, while upholding our commitments to knowledge mobilization and community engagement.”

The city approved the formal research partnership earlier this month and has also created a non-profit society that will provide a path to seek federal and provincial grants.

“We are lucky to have SFU in Burnaby, and tapping into their academic expertise is a tremendous opportunity for the city to improve its efficiency and effectiveness, serve residents better and find new ways to tackle the stresses that affect cities everywhere,” says Mayor Mike Hurley. “I look forward to seeing this partnership develop and become a model that others may benefit from.”

The university and the city will each provide a full-time staff member to the lab. While based in Burnaby’s Christine Sinclair Community Centre, events and projects will take place in the community and on campus.

"SFU is home to so many researchers whose work is directly relevant to cities—the way they are built, the way they are adapting to climate change, and the way that city governments implement policies to improve the lives of their citizens," says Dugan O'Neil, SFU's vice-president, research and international. "I am excited about partnering with the City of Burnaby to bring that research to bear on issues that are crucial to the city, both short and long-term. Partnerships like this foster new research questions and new answers, and ensure that those answers have direct relevance and impact on community."

The collaboration is the latest to combine the strengths of the university and city. In 2019 SFU partnered with the city for the mayor’s task force on community housing, an initiative involving SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, while last fall, the Urban Resilient Futures Initiative was launched, together with the Centre for Dialogue and Vancity. SFU’s involvement in the three-year project will help the city to accelerate its climate action plan and further its work toward a resilient and low-carbon future.