In a move to boost innovation and clean technology, the city of Peterborough has unanimously voted in favour of moving forward with the Trent Research and Innovation Park at Trent University, despite opposition from environmentalists and students.
A delegation from Trent University, including president Leo Groarke encouraged councillors at city hall to support the development of the research park, saying the partnership with the city would help transform Peterborough into a hub for green research by focussing on issues like global warming. They argued it would also boost the local economy by creating hundreds of jobs.
“Trent supports this motion as a positive step towards a better economy and new jobs for Peterborough,” said Groake. “And as a way to make our university better for our students and as a contribution to an environmentally more sustainable future.”
The 85-acre research park will be located just east of the DNA building at Trent. The area is now farmland owned by the university.
The choice of the site has some students concerned. Biologist and PhD candidate Deborah Jenkins says the loss of habitat will affect several threatened species of birds and turtles.
“If you walk through the area now you can see habitat loss already,” said Jenkins. “There are wetlands being filled in along the side of the roads and this fragmentation … is seriously impacting any possibility of migration of turtles in this important area.”
Groarke suggested the reason they’ve designed the state-of-the-art research park the way they have is specifically to address some of the concerns expressed by people like Jenkins and other opponents. Trent and the community members are concerned about issues like global warming and environmental sustainability.
“Our view, however, is that the best way to address those concerns, it to develop a research park that will develop an environmental and more sustainable way of living and we believe that is what we are doing with the park,” said Groarke. “It would be misleading to suggest there has been no discussion of the environmental concerns.”
Adam Noble, the founder of NobleGen, a biotechnology company that has developed a technique to source food ingredients from micro-organisms as well as a technology to filter and clean contaminated water, says his company is dedicated to creating a cleaner future.
“Sometimes small scale sacrifices are necessary to combat large scale changes such as global and environmental degradation,” he told council.
NobleGen will look to be the cornerstone tenant of the Trent Research and Innovation Park. The company is planning to build a 300,000 square-foot facility which would be a $58-million investment built in multiple stages. But Noble said if the project isn’t given the green light, his company will look elsewhere.
“To make a global impact we have to construct this facility and so that is a small-scale sacrifice, compared to the greater scale benefit we bring with our product,” said NobleGen co-founder Andressa Lacerda.
“Whether we are building this facility here or elsewhere, it will still be built,” said Lacerda.”But we would rather build it in a place that values the environment and also community integration.”
In the end, council supported the Trent Research and Innovation Park master plan. The project will see Trent enter a long-term lease with the city.
Construction is slated to begin soon.