Challenge Categories

The Mayor's Innovation Challenge is a competition calling on teams of students from Kingston's major post-secondary institutions – St. Lawrence College, Queen's University, and the Royal Military College of Canada – to submit innovative proposals to address a challenge faced by the City.

There are two distinct streams of the Mayor's Innovation Challenge. The Dunin-Deshpande Smart Kingston Stream has one challenge category, while the Public Sector Innovation Stream has three. If you choose to take on a Public Sector Innovation Stream challenge, remember to consider the $10,000 implementation budget in your proposal.

The Dunin-Deshpande Smart Kingston Stream

The Smart Kingston Challenge is calling on creative minds to leverage emerging technologies and develop new innovations that enhance the delivery of municipal services. With access to the City's extensive open data portal and with the City of Kingston as a potential first customer, this challenge aims to give entrepreneurs a chance to develop and pilot their solutions to advance Kingston as a smart, livable, leading city.

Experience from the past seven years at QICSI has shown that teams with a diverse, interdisciplinary make-up have been very successful at developing a socially desirable product. Therefore, a multidisciplinary approach is highly encouraged in pitches for the Smart Kingston Challenge.

Submission Deadline: Feb. 3, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

The Public Sector Innovation Stream

The Public Sector Innovation stream offers a wide-range of challenges inclusive to students from all academic backgrounds. Topics to be covered are climate action, accessibility, and food security.

Submission Deadline: Feb. 3, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Challenge Information

    The Dunin-Deshpande Smart Kingston Challenge Stream

    As part of building a smart, livable, and leading city, how can the City of Kingston leverage emerging technologies and innovations to disrupt and enhance services delivered to our residents? The Smart Kingston Strategy sets the vision and roadmap for how we, as a City, are going to take advantage of technology with the aim of improving the lives of all Kingstonians. Using the strategy as a guide forward, this challenge involves four potential focus areas for consideration:

    People Focused

    This approach is meant to empower us to design a city that has empathy at its core and focuses on making the lives of residents better by taking a people-centric versus technology-centric approach. It’s not about implementing more technology, but about creating the best possible outcomes for residents. How we can stimulate positive human experiences through the adoption of technology and data? How can we address social issues using technology and enrich the lives of our residents? How can we provide relevant and intuitive solutions that will serve them in everyday life?

    Culture Focused

    Culture in the context of this challenge means the spectrum of human expressions of creativity and history that make a geographic place distinct. Taken in that spirit, culture may be related to historic aspects of the Kingston community, or it may be related to the vibrant art scene in Kingston. How can we use innovation, technology and data to enrich culture in Kingston? Can it be used to help expose more people to culture? Can it be used to generate new expressions?

    Privacy and Security Focused

    Smart Cities are highly digitized cities and characterized by large volumes of data stored digitally. This can be used in a positive way, by contributing to societal goals and improved quality of life, but it can also lead to concerns about how data is protected, who has access to it, how it will be used, and who it will be shared with. This theme involves identifying and implementing smart city security and privacy initiatives. How can we proactively establish data ethics and privacy policies? What control should individuals have over their personal data? What is the right balance between openness, responsiveness and personalized service and privacy and security?

    Climate Focused

    Kingston was the first municipality to declare a climate emergency in Ontario in March of 2019. As a community, Kingston has an opportunity to show leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With a focus on environmental innovation, Kingston is well positioned as a laboratory and a showcase for new green technologies, approaches and pilot projects. How can we leverage emerging technologies or develop new innovations to help achieve our target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent across the city’s operation by 2022, and work towards the goal of becoming carbon neutral no later than 2040?

    The Smart Kingston Challenge is calling on creative minds to leverage emerging technologies and develop new innovations that enhance the delivery of municipal services. With access to the City's extensive open data portal and with the City of Kingston as a potential first customer, this challenge aims to give entrepreneurs a chance to develop and pilot their solutions to advance Kingston as a smart, livable and leading city. Experience from the past seven years at QICSI has shown that teams with a diverse, interdisciplinary make-up have been very successful at developing a socially desirable product. Therefore, a multidisciplinary approach is highly encouraged in pitches for the Smart Kingston Challenge. Submission Deadline: Feb. 3, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.


    Current City of Kingston examples

    • Honk App: Residents and visitors can seamlessly search, pay for and top up parking from a phone, tablet or computer
    • Sewer overflow: Users can consult our real-time sewer overflow map before they swim at certain locations at Lake Ontario within 48 hours of a heavy rainfall
    • Real-time Transit Data: Kingston Transit passengers receive real-time arrival and departure information for all Kingston Transit routes using their computer, smartphone, tablet or with their preferred transit app.

    Public Sector Challenge 1: Demonstrating Leadership on Climate Action

    The City of Kingston is committed to environmental leadership and is challenging students to develop innovative ideas that will address the global climate emergency through local action. This challenge involves five potential focus areas for consideration: increase climate science literacy or awareness to boost climate action; electrification of transit and personal transportation; single-use plastics and litter reduction; a local carbon-offset program, and the optimization of meeting places.

    Supporting Information

    Given the economic, social and environmental threats of climate change and Kingston's 2019 declaration of a climate emergency, the City is committed to protecting the environment for future generations. As an internationally connected city, Kingston will address this global issue as a local climate action leader and inspire Kingston residents to become part of the solution.

    The City will lead by example with measurable, effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions strategies, including building retrofits, eliminating municipally supplied single-use plastics and other energy efficiencies to become carbon neutral as soon as possible and no later than 2040. More immediately, these changes will result in a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the City's operations by 2022. The City will continue to electrify its vehicle fleet, promote green development, energy production and active transportation, create well-maintained litter free roads, expand green spaces, protect wetlands, and promote more recycling and waste diversion. Action on climate change will protect the environment and those most vulnerable.

    Increase climate science literacy and awareness to boost climate action
    While the City of Kingston works to demonstrate leadership on climate action, it must be acknowledged that GHG emissions from municipal operations account for less than 2% of the entire carbon footprint of the City of Kingston. No matter what the City does to reduce emissions, we can’t reach our reduction targets without the help of citizens, institutions and businesses. When discussing climate science, misinformation or lack of information often inhibits constructive dialogue, and limits the uptake of climate action. How can the City increase climate science literacy across the community, lowering barriers to climate action for local businesses, organizations and individuals? How can awareness or social buy-in be accelerated through innovative approaches like gamification, service apps or other innovative approaches?

    Electrification of transit and transportation
    The City of Kingston has made a serious commitment to prepare for the transition to electric vehicle (EV) adoption. Winning Canada’s inaugural Municipal Electric Champion Award based on EV strategy and initiative, the City now has installed 50 public EV charging stations in 21 locations. On May 8, 2019, a motion was passed to approve the purchase of two electric buses for use by Kingston Transit. Considering transportation is the second largest source of GHG emissions in Canada, how can we better improve and enhance EV transit and transportation in Kingston? What innovative or collaborative options can we consider for non-automotive transport, personal vehicles and shared transportation services?

    Single-use plastics and litter reduction
    Single-use plastics (SUPs) are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These are items such as plastic bags, straws, soft drink and water bottles, and most food packaging. The negative impact of SUPs has been widely reported, including the unsightliness of plastic litter on our roads, parks, and waterfronts, and harmful micro-plastics increasingly contaminating bodies of water and even the most remote animal habitats. These impacts on the natural environment can be reduced by replacing SUPs with materials which are highly reusable, compostable, or are more cost effective to recycle. How can we discourage the use of SUPs and/or reduce plastic waste and litter in Kingston?

    Local carbon-offset program
    While many local businesses and organizations are taking steps to reduce GHG emissions, they may face many practical challenges in the transition towards carbon neutrality. Once an individual or business has worked to reduce their carbon footprint to their greatest ability within our current systems they may consider purchasing carbon offsets. Purchasing carbon offsets allows organizations, businesses and individuals to compensate for carbon emissions they may produce through the sequestering of carbon emissions through other means, and puts a price on the impact of GHG emissions. However, many carbon offset schemes take action to sequester carbon emissions through frivolous means or in places far removed from the Kingston community rendering a less tangible local impact. However, carbon offsets purchased in Kingston could lead to a direct impact within the community and boosting consumer efficacy and leading to the greater adoption of this practice. How can the City of Kingston or other organizations provide a carbon offset program that directly impacts the local environment?

    Optimization of meeting places
    Employees of the City of Kingston frequently travel across the City for interdepartmental meetings, which is important as the City has many diverse groups, which benefit greatly from information sharing and collaboration. While teleconferencing can be used in some instances, certain meetings require staff attendance. However, the optimal meeting location may not always be chosen for these meetings, leading attendees to use single-occupancy-vehicles, which produce significant GHGs. How can the City of Kingston optimize preferred meeting locations, taking into account the points of origin for each attendee and the requirements of the meeting space in order to reduce the City’s GHG emissions?

    Public Sector Challenge 2: Enhancing Food Security and Sustainability

    The City of Kingston is calling on students to think of creative ideas to promote food security solutions across the city.

    Supporting Information

    Kingston City Council committed to leveraging and promoting food security solutions in partnership with others as outlined in Kingston’s Strategic Plan for 2019-2022. In Kingston, thanks to incredible community organizations, there are currently 47 different food providers (e.g. Martha’s Table, St. Vincent de Paul, Lunch by George, etc.). There are also a number of solutions that directly provide food including Partners in Mission Food Bank,, Fresh Food Market Stands to name a few. However, this challenge calls on students to consider the root causes of food insecurity. How do we address to the bigger issue of helping people buy their own food? How can the city partner with community organizations to promote food security solutions?

    Kingston is also committed to reducing waste to landfills and promoting healthy citizens and responsible food purchasing. With this in mind:

    • How can we support our local farmers by encouraging more people to buy local food?
    • How can we expand our public market to help promote these goals?
    • How can the city reduce the amount of food that ends up in the garbage instead of the green bin program?
    • How can the city reduce household food waste? Would a program like Love Food, Hate Waste work in Kingston?

    The City of Kingston is proudly partnering with Loving Spoonful on the Enhancing Food Security and Sustainability Challenge this year.


    Public Sector Challenge 3: Removing Barriers and Improving Accessibility

    This challenge aims to inspire innovative ideas that will remove barriers for people with disabilities. In 2018, 22% of Canadians had at least one disability. This represents 6.2 million people – a number that is expected to increase as the population ages. With that in mind, the City of Kingston continuously strives to create an inclusive and accessible community that allows everyone to participate and contribute to civic life in a meaningful way. The Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC) provides advice to Kingston City Council on accessibility issues faced by people with disabilities. In 2018, Council approved the 2018-2022 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan (the Plan) which includes strategies which will help make the City of Kingston more accessible to all its residents and visitors ensuring the accessibility standards under the AODA are fully implemented by 2025.

    Several types of barriers can be addressed through this challenge:

    • Physical Barriers: Features, buildings, or spaces that restrict or impede physical access.
    • Communication Barriers: Obstacles with processing, transmitting or interpreting information.
    • Attitudinal Barriers: Prejudgments or assumptions that directly or indirectly discriminate.
    • Technological Barriers: Technology that is not modified to support various assistive devices and/or software.
    • Systemic Barriers: Barriers within an organization’s policies, practices, and procedures that do not consider accessibility.

    This challenge intends to address three potential areas of focus: 1. Our lives are continuously impacted by technology – how can we design and/or adapt our technological capabilities to be inclusive? 2. How can we make public spaces and programs accessible to all citizens? 3. How can we effectively increase awareness and understanding of barriers that prevent people from fully engaging in the community?

    Design or adapt technology to remove or avoid barriers. Technologies that remove barriers and help people living with disability fully participate in public life continue to be in high demand. These technologies may work by augmenting individual abilities (i.e. hearing aid), by changing the general environment, or by a combination of these two types (i.e. screen readers). How can the City support the development and implementation of innovative technologies for people with disabilities that will remove barriers to participation in public life?

    How can we make public spaces and programs accessible to all citizens?
    How do we continue to design, build, and manage spaces and programs so that they can be readily accessed and used by everyone regardless of ability?

    Increase awareness and understanding of existing barriers and challenges that people face to participation in public life.
    How can the City increase public awareness and education across the community through innovative approaches that reach a large audience and spread the message that accessibility and inclusivity benefit everyone?