Invest in infrastructure and programs that support bridging organizations

Question:What more can be done to cement Canada's place as a leader in social entrepreneurship?
on 09/28/2016

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A key to Memorial’s ongoing success in supporting provincial and national innovation and prosperity has been the success of a number of university units and centres that exist to help bridge the divide between university knowledge and community needs. Consistent with the recommendations of the Jenkins Task force, these organizations work with industry, government, and community partners to help turn ideas into innovative solutions, bolster industry-led R&D, an area in which Canada lags behind other OECD nations, and form the heart of sectoral clusters.

Since its inception, Memorial has had a legislative mandate to contribute to the social and economic development of the province. This “special obligation” to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador had led to a university that is an international leader in publicly-engaged teaching and learning and research. Experiential learning, service learning, applied research, and faculty members and staff with expertise and commitment to knowledge mobilization and community-based research, typify Memorial’s leadership in partnering with industry, community organizations and governments within the province and beyond.

A key element of this success has been the establishment of boundary-spanning institutions and mechanisms that enable external partners to access the expertise and resources of university faculty and staff, and which enable research, teaching and learning to respond to needs and opportunities identified by external partners. These vehicles for innovation and collaboration also facilitate mutual identification of shared projects, ground-truthing during the research and commercialization process, and result in external partners who have commitment to apply results in real world contexts.

Drs. David Wolfe and Peter Warrian of the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School, University of Toronto, recently completed a report, “C-CORE as a Networked Industrial Policy Initiative,” highlighted this unique university-owned, entrepreneurial boundary spanner organization (elaborated upon below). Drs. Wolfe and Warrian are now embarking on a study of the Marine Institute at Memorial, another world-leading unit which links the applied training and industrial-sponsored research of a polytechnic, with the research expertise and highly trained personal of the university.

Memorial also has nationally and internationally recognized units in the Genesis Centre technology incubator, the Lesley Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, identified by the OECD as an international best practice, and the NL Centre of Applied Health Research, with a Director who reports jointly to the Dean of Medicine and the Deputy Minister of Health. Memorial is also the developer and steward of Yaffle, an on-line connecting tool being expanded to the college system in NL and to universities in the Maritimes and potentially across the country.

The federal government should work with the funding councils and the National Research Council, or establish separate departmental programing, to support such critically important boundary spanning institutions and on-line tools.

The federal government should make a strategic investment in the economic and environmental well-being of Canada through supporting the establishment of the Fisheries and Marine Institute Holyrood Marine Base Phase IIB ($25 million) and the C-CORE Cold Ocean Oil Spill Response Centre of Excellence ($35 million).

Credit: Memorial University of Newfoundland

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