Crush, Collide and (un)Comfortable

Surrey, British Columbia

“Crush it” and “Create places to Collide” are two phrases that repeatedly roll off the tongue of Dr Ryan D’Arcy, Head of Health Sciences and Innovation at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Dr D’Arcy is the charismatic driving force behind the Health and Technology District in the Canadian City of Surrey. Oh and Dr D’Arcy is also a neuroscientist, researcher, innovator and entrepreneur making break throughs in brain vital signs, VR brain surgery and discovered activity in elusive brain white matter.

Over the past five years Dr D’Arcy together with an extensive cohort of collaborators, have created and curated the Surrey Health and Technology District. Their approach has been a combination of deliberate and organic strategies with the single unashamed mission to bring technology out of laboratories to directly improve people’s health and wellbeing.

Some twenty-three new buildings now populate the district including Surrey Memorial Hospital, an ever-expanding group of multi nationals and startups as well as clinical research facilities and a range of Universities.

What stands out relative to other innovation precincts is this is a highly dynamic ecosystem that thrives off integrating research with practice, where the patients, clinicians and researchers crash and tackle critical health problems, where collaboration is ‘open source’ and where proximity of people and ideas matters.

What also is evident is the breadth and depth of collaboration. The City of Surrey has been an integral precinct partner delivering quality of amenity of public spaces, transport and facilitating speed of development. It has been the strength of the precinct vision and the shared stakeholder commitment to deliver 15,000 jobs and the $1.2 billion annual economic impact to the citizens of Surrey that has minimized the impact of inevitable changes in City leadership.

Dr D’Arcy attributes the success of this evolving journey on a number of distinguishing features relating to governance, culture and operations namely:

Strong Private Sector Leadership - this is a project led by the Lark Group who were able to understand and deliver on the specific requirements associated with health and innovation.

Research Matters Most When Impacting Lives - the central value proposition centers on applied and integrated research that has direct impact on people’s lives.

Organic Contributory Governance - a leadership working group that was based on contribution rather than structure and politics enabling continuity in purpose. Leave a seat at the table for everyone.

Delivery Agility and Flexibility – ability to take on additional projects where aligned with central value proposition. For example, developed Royal Canadian Legion Village as a centre of excellence for PTSD incorporating housing for veterans.

Business Matters – the Board of Trade and Business Improvement District as integral partners to foster indirect jobs, develops talent and market city as a place of business opportunity. City Leadership - need the Mayor as a champion to facilitate and guide public support and outcomes

University Competition – create competitive tension between universities and align universities to different strategic outcomes so can leverage their relative strengths.

Crushing the usual paradox of innovation precincts, the Surrey Health and Technology District is a community of likeminded clinicians, entrepreneurs, business, researchers and city leaders who due to proximity collide fostering and fast-tracking health advancements that are full of promise and possibility.

This is an ecosystem that is comfortable with being uncomfortable to enable ideas to grow so that the City or Surrey can grow.


Katherine O'Regan

Executive Director, Cities Leadership Institute


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Level 23, 45 Clarence Street

Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

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