Photo: CityAge returns to the CIGI Campus in Waterloo this Oct. 9-10. Last year’s event sold out.

It’s one thing to build a city.

It’s another to build a high-performance, hyper-connected entrepreneurial community spanning several cities along a 110-kilometre urban corridor.

That’s exactly what business and civic leaders envision for southern Ontario: an innovation “supercluster,” anchored by Waterloo Region to the west and Toronto to the east, similar in scope to the world’s pre-eminent example – California’s Silicon Valley.

This October 9 and 10, building the supercluster will be a key focus of CityAge: The Innovation City, a conference to be held at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) Campus in Waterloo and the Communitech Hub in Kitchener’s former Lang Tannery.

It’s the second consecutive year that CityAge will hold an event in Waterloo Region, after last year’s sold-out event ended with a call for greater connectivity between Ontario’s most prolific innovation hubs.

“CityAge is returning because it is clear Waterloo Region is undergoing an important transformation, going from a group of communities that often were competing against each other for economic development into what can best be described as a supercluster,” said Miro Cernetig, co-founder of CityAge Media, which has staged similar events across North America and abroad.

“Over the last two years, as we have held CityAge across North America, it is clear that communities and cities operating under a unifying brand are succeeding,” Cernetig, a former Globe and Mail journalist, told me this week.

“They all make great urban design, connectivity — from public transit, trains, airports and even fast broadband — a unifying priority. This is what attracts the financial and human capital that fuel a city’s economic and social success. We think Waterloo Region is doing all these things and hope to help amplify this important conversation on building Canada’s supercluster, here and elsewhere.”

That conversation has been building for more than a year, as leaders in Waterloo Region and Toronto have increasingly come to see their strengths as complementary and greater collaboration as essential to Canada’s ability to compete globally for talent and capital.

In a series of Huffington Post articles that began last November, Toronto journalist Pat Lynch took an in-depth look at the potential inherent in building a southern Ontario tech supercluster.

At the same time, local municipal leaders pointed to that potential when they made the business case to the Ontario government for improved commuter rail connectivity between Waterloo Region and Toronto.

This culminated in a provincial budget announcement that two-way, all-day GO service will be implemented over the next few years.

Still, as Lynch’s series pointed out, transportation is but one issue among many in building a thriving and globally competitive innovation corridor.

The CityAge conference promises to delve deeply into these issues, as participants from locations as diverse as Pittsburgh, Palo Alto and Monterrey, Mexico converge on Waterloo Region.

The conference, sponsored by Communitech, will include a reception at the end of Day 1 at the Communitech Hub, where tours will be offered.

Anthony Reinhart is Communitech’s Director of Editorial Strategy and senior staff writer. View from the ‘Loo looks at the issues, people and events that shape Waterloo Region’s technology sector. It will appear bi-weekly through the summer.

About The Author

Anthony Reinhart
Director, Editorial Strategy
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Anthony Reinhart is a veteran journalist who left the Globe and Mail to join Communitech in 2011. Tony has covered everything from crime, politics and courts to business, the arts and sports, and his writing has won numerous journalism awards. He is Communitech's Director of Editorial Strategy and senior staff writer.