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UBC clean energy research centre in the works for Squamish

Early agreement signed for eventual campus on the Oceanfront Lands
Mayor Patricia Heintzman shakes hands with the Squamish Nation's Chris Lewis as Michael Hutchison, of Newport Beach Developments (Back left), MLA Jordan Sturdy, and Adrian Corless, CEO of Carbon Engineering (Far right) and Walter Merida of UBC (Seated) look on, at a media event to announce a cooperation agreement that paves the way for a UBC clean energy research centre.

The University of British Columbia is coming to the Squamish Oceanfront.

Representatives from the university, the District of Squamish, the Squamish Nation, Carbon Engineering company and the oceanfront developer, Newport Beach Developments, signed a cooperation agreement Friday to create a clean energy research centre.

“It is the first step in formalizing and planning for a UBC campus down there,” Mayor Patricia Heintzman told The Squamish Chief. “We really see this as a full-on campus, students, lots of students, lots of innovators.”

The signing of the cooperation accord marks the first step, while the next step is committing to further partnerships and then putting in the campus, Heintzman said.

The four Squamish-based signatories to the agreement – the district, the Nation, Carbon Engineering and Newport Beach Developments – have formed the Squamish Clean Technology Association to seek ventures to create an innovation hub.

Since the concept of an oceanfront community started to percolate Squamish councils and residents have been very steadfast in insisting an educational institution be a part of the plans, Heintzman said.

“We see learning and education as a foundational piece to our community, to the economy and the value added it brings and the job creation it can bring is really valuable to a community.”

Heintzman imagines more clean energy businesses – in addition to Carbon Engineering, which already is on the Oceanfront – will set up near the campus. 

“From my perspective, climate change and that kind of thing has been a motivation of mine for a long time, so to be able to be part of the solution there is certainly satisfying,” she said.

Ideally, the Squamish campus will also address the provincial and national shortage of engineers, Heintzman said.

While eventually there will be a brick and mortar campus, Carbon Engineering is already looking to expand its partnership with UBC, the company’s Adrian Corless said, adding that more students from UBC will be involved in the research and development currently underway.

“The cooperation between UBC and Carbon Engineering has been going on since the day we arrived in British Columbia,” Corless said. “We are now, with the support of the provincial government, kicking off a project that is going to be allowing us another couple of years of pretty intense research around taking the CO2 we are currently capturing and looking at processes to convert that... to make synthetic fuels.”

Walter Merida of the UBC Clean Energy Research Centre said since the clean energy education programs have already been approved and are operating at the Vancouver UBC campus, launching the centre at a campus in Squamish would be fairly simple and quick, once facilities are in place.

The campus won’t just be for young students, Merida said.

“The profile of students we are hoping to attract is not only the freshly minted undergraduate students but people with eight to 10 years of industrial experience,” he said.

Squamish Nation spokesperson Chris Lewis said it is the right time in history for this type of partnership.

“Through innovation, through partnerships, through adaptation our people have thrived and we have never done it alone… so I bring us to today and this great opportunity.”

The cooperation agreement outlines several areas to explore further including the development of enhanced education access for First Nations students.

Michael Hutchison of Newport Beach Developments Limited Partnership said the agreement shows the type of business that will set up at the Oceanfront.

“I think what is most important for the community to understand is the community had a vision, a sub area plan, that says one-third of this land will be retained for employment. What the sub area doesn’t say is what kind of employment,” he told The Squamish Chief. “So I think with this announcement, the community can see what kind of employment, what industry we have chosen to attract and to work with and attract more of is clean energy, so environmental research and solving the climate change issue, and Squamish is the ideal location.”

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