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Vancouver Sun – Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard aims to create a medical hub in the City Centre

January 14, 2014

Mayor Dianne Watts continues to build an infrastructure focusing on medical health technologies

By Kelly Sinoski and Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — First it was India, then Israel — and Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts doesn’t want to stop there as she continues to build an Innovation Boulevard focusing on medical health technologies in the City Centre.

The idea, modelled on a similar corridor in Halifax designed by SFU neuroscientist and professor Ryan D’Arcy, already has drawn interest from 14 companies looking to set up shop in the one-square-mile section that is bolstered by 180 medical health technology firms, Surrey Memorial Hospital and Simon Fraser University.

Other facilities include the Centre for Child Development and the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

“Predominantly, Surrey has relied on the construction industry because we’ve been booming for so long,” Watts said. “We have to look at different sectors and make sure they grow and are nurtured as well. … There will come a day when construction will start to slow down as the city gets built out. It’s just a matter of making Surrey healthy.”

The Halifax industrial cluster is home to dozens of cutting-edge life science firms, anchored by Dalhousie University and the National Research Council of Canada’s Industry Partnership Facility.

D’Arcy drove the development as senior research officer for the National Research Council, which acted as a research partner with private firms developing and commercializing products in neuroscience and biomedical imaging.

“To make this work, you have to lead by example, taking your advances in the lab and turning them into products that help patients,” said D’Arcy. “In Halifax, I was mandated to build capacity in the industry, and when I look at Surrey I see great leadership at the city level and with Fraser Health and Surrey Memorial Hospital.”

The city, Fraser Health and SFU are already creating a powerful synergy for growth and commercialization that is drawing interest from the life sciences industry, D’Arcy said.

“It’s still in its infancy, but the rate at which it is gaining momentum and sustainability has been breathtaking,” he said. “By comparison with Halifax, this is going to be much larger.”

Surrey also is pursuing partnerships with the aerospace industry, as well as agriculture, food, and arts and cultural sectors.

But the Innovation Boulevard concept is top of mind, as Watts returned last week from a trade mission to Israel where she signed deals with Israel Brain Technologies and the Israel Center for Medical Simulation at The Sheba Medical Center.

The center is expected to partner with Conquer Mobile, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the Fraser Health Authority to deliver state-of-the-art medical simulation training to nurses, physicians and other health-care professionals.

The intent, Watts said, is to create a world-class medical technology centre in Surrey to enhance patient care, attract top medical and scientific talent, and grow companies in the health-technology and service sectors.

“There are many opportunities for universities to partner with research, medical health technologies and the private sector,” Watts said. “It’s just a matter of bringing them all together.”

ksinoski@vancouversun.com

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