International ideation workshop to rethink aging populations in smart cities
By Isabelle Langlois
Around 100 participants of many nationalities took part in a wide-ranging reflection on the theme of aging in the context of smart cities. The exchanges took place during QI_Reflexion, an ambitious ideation workshop taking place on November 19 and 20, organized by the Quartier de l'innovation de Montréal, the Ministère de l'Économie et de l'Innovation, in collaboration with the Quebec network abroad and the Government of Canada.
Entrepreneurs, cities and researchers from Quebec, Canada and Europe from all backgrounds joined the event. Participants came from Spain, Catalonia, Belgium, France, England and the Netherlands. Despite the geographical distance, similar concerns were noted, such as exclusion, perception issues around elderly people and the technological divide they experience. The reintegration of this segment of the population into the social discussion and the search for solutions to keep it active seem more necessary than ever, in Canada as in Europe.
This unique activity was held in parallel with the Smart City Expo World Congress: "Normally, we take advantage of this type of major international event to accompany Quebec delegations abroad," explains Alexandra Burnet, International Affairs Advisor for Canadian and International Innovation Partnerships at the Ministère de l'Économie et de l'Innovation. We wondered how we could generate an international networking session of good quality, despite the digital constraint. We wanted people to have the desire to collaborate together for future projects."
The objective of the approach was to move away from the traditional webinar format and instead encourage collaborative work and stimulate conversations. Under the guidance of la Factry's experts, participants were invited to reflect on how smart cities can respond to urban resilience issues related to aging populations through visual tools, staging and fun games.
Amongst the main reasons that pushed individuals to take part in this major reflection, was the desire to meet with organizations to develop or validate research technologies. It's the case of Primaël-Marie Sodonon, Innovation and Pilot Project Advisor for the Laboratoire d’innovation urbaine de Montréal (LIUM). "I like to keep an open mind and be available for this type of activity. Certain elements confirm my hypotheses, while other aspects allow me to enrich my position on the subject. »
Although the process took place over two 3-hour online workshops, the time spent in front of the screen didn't seem long. Claudio Truzzi from the Université Libre de Bruxelles was particularly surprised by this aspect. "The addition of modern elements made the whole process less psychologically demanding. The format made it possible to develop ideas well, to interact sufficiently and above all to allow time to be comfortable and confident with others in the discussion groups," notes the digital innovation specialist for Icity Brussels.
The theme of aging well in smart cities made it possible to approach different sectors such as mobility or social innovation, for example, and thus brought out universal problems. "The strength of international collaboration is to be able to rely on each other's expertise in a complementary way. We are all facing similar urban and climate issues. We are therefore in a position to find solutions together," Alexandra Burnet points out positively.
Montréal, the perfect place to initiate international collaborations
Montréal enjoys international recognition as a creative and thriving environment for innovation. The Quartier de l'innovation de Montréal provides a gateway to this ecosystem. "It is our responsibility to take on this role, to open and explore new markets for Quebec companies in a context of smart cities," says Vincent Lafrenaye Lamontagne, Project Manager at Quartier de l’innovation de Montréal.
Vincent Lafrenaye Lamontagne
The next step is to present the thoughts that emerged from the workshop to various partners working with seniors in order to encourage the development of innovative projects.
"The Quartier de l’innovation provides valuable follow-up and directs the deployment of the ideas generated," says the event organizer. "I think that at this level, the workshop succeeded in creating sparks, says Ms. Burnet of the Ministry. We feel that a few potential projects are going to take shape. This is a very successful first step."
Summary of the ideas generated during the workshops