On Tuesday, November 21, Climate Positive Energy (CPE) was pleased to welcome more than 250 industry leaders for the sold-out Smart Growth Symposium: Fostering a Sustainable Future Through Innovation. Co-hosted with Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) at University of Toronto’s historic Hart House, the Smart Growth Symposium featured a day of insightful panels and fireside chats centred on improving the efficiency and resiliency of our economy and its infrastructure. Attendees were the first to learn that due to the overwhelming success of the Symposium, CPE and OCC will be partnering once again to host a second symposium in the fall of 2024.
During opening remarks, Leah Cowen, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, provided insight on how Climate Positive Energy is building new communities, transforming the climate research landscape, and training the next generation of leaders and scholars through initiatives like its Grid Modernization Centre and the CANSTOREnergy project.
“While Climate Positive Energy is working to solve global problems, it maintains a laser focus on local impact,” said Professor Cowen. “CPE is working closely with other groups across the university to make our campuses net-zero by 2050 through engaging researchers in projects that can be piloted right here at the university, with our campus functioning as a living lab.”
A conversation on the transformative potential of smart energy grids, moderated by Climate Positive Energy’s Shatha Qaqish-Clavering, featured insights on better managing energy supply and demand, optimizing resources, and enhancing efficiency for a sustainable and resilient future. Panelists discussed the exciting advancements in smart energy grids and their vital role in the energy transition to meet Canada’s target of a net-zero emission grid by 2035.
“Unlocking the full potential of communities to address climate change requires ongoing collaboration, such as that between universities and industry partners,” said Shatha Qaqish-Clavering, Director of Strategy and Operations at Climate Positive Energy. “Through co-hosting conversations and ideas at the Smart Growth Symposium, Climate Positive Energy and Ontario Chamber of Commerce are bridging the gap between groundbreaking research and real-world impact, driving innovation and accelerating the transition to a more sustainable future.”
Expanding on conversations about innovation and sustainability, Ontario’s newly appointed Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Hon. Andrea Khanjin, shared her vision and policy priorities for the ministry, including the urgent need to combat climate change and advance the use of clean technology solutions.
“Our government plays a critical role when it comes to driving innovation, sustainability, and economic prosperity,” wrote Minister Khanjin in a social media post following the event. The discussion, moderated by OCC President Rocco Rossi, provided insights into opportunities for collaboration between the public and private sectors in tackling key sustainability challenges and fostering innovation.
A panel on Building Smart discussed the transformative potential of interconnected smart buildings and infrastructure, unpacking the opportunities to leverage technologies such as digital twinning, smart energy monitoring, and retrofitting to decarbonize our buildings. The conversation comes as Climate Positive Energy researchers are exploring partnerships to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) in developing a digital twinning tool for buildings.
A discussion on Smart and Sustainable Commerce featuring conversations on the role of cybersecurity and AI in fintech and open banking, and digitization in the business world of today, while clean, safe, and efficient transportation networks were the topic of a third panel. Panelists provided insights on electrification, last-mile connectivity, and the digitization of supply chains, and how innovation is reshaping mobility to be cleaner and greener in the future.
Closing the day was a lunchtime keynote featuring Sharon Bollenbach, Executive Director of the FIFA World Cup 2026 at City of Toronto. According to the City, the FIFA World Cup 2026, with more countries, cities, teams and matches, is expected to be the most inclusive and diverse sporting event ever, uniting the entire world on a vast stage and engaging millions of fans across 16 stadiums and billions worldwide. In conversation with Professor David Sinton, Academic Director at Climate Positive Energy, Sharon provided exclusive insights on the need for innovative and sustainable solutions in the sporting industry.
“U of T has all the disciplines needed to address big challenges like Canada’s climate objectives,” said David Sinton. “The critical role of strategic initiatives like CPE is that we bring together those disciplines, and match teams with industry, government, and other partners to achieve those goals.”
Thank you to our co-host Ontario Chamber of Commerce, our panelists and moderators who sparked meaningful discussions, and to the 250+ guests who joined us at our inaugural Smart Growth Symposium. We look forward to welcoming you back in 2024 as we advance a sustainable future in Ontario and across Canada.
All photos by Liz Beddall Photography.