Growth, Talent, Innovation in an Evolving Economy
November 21, 2019

Last week’s Ontario Economic Summit (OES) brought together industry leaders, postsecondary institutions and public policy officials to discuss Ontario’s position as a global leader in the new economy and its future growth.

In today’s rapidly changing global landscape, where disruption and new technologies are impacting communities across Ontario, the province is faced with an unprecedented opportunity to be at the forefront of this change, both regionally and globally.

Ontario’s universities are partnering with industry and government to develop a talented workforce that has the adaptable and resilient skills to become the province’s future leaders and job creators.

Our institutions are contributing to the ground-breaking innovation that ultimately drives industry, turns ideas into products and services, and helps businesses scale.

Below are just a few examples of how Ontario’s universities are addressing future talent needs, fostering a regionally and globally competitive landscape and driving the innovation economy.

Addressing Future Talent Needs

  • Through an innovative work-integrated learning opportunity, Brock University accounting students are building skills that will help them be competitive in an evolving economy. Students are partnering with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to provide free tax-filing clinics for the Niagara region. Not only does this kind of partnership ensure that our students receive the skills they need to be competitive, it provides important access to a community service that may not be affordable for some.
  • Shopify Inc., a Canadian multinational e-commerce company headquartered in Ottawa (with businesses in more than 175 countries) and Carleton University have partnered to provide computer science students with the ability to split their time between the university campus and Shopify’s downtown headquarters. This innovative approach to learning not only builds skills for future agility, but it also allows students to experience a global perspective in a thriving business.
  • The health-care sector is Thunder Bay’s leading employer, making the city a regional hub for health services in Northwestern Ontario. A two-year project between Lakehead University and Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute is providing training opportunities for graduate students to develop and commercialize the next generation of medical imaging detectors that will improve patient outcomes.
  • Through key partnerships with industry, OCAD University students at the Centre for Emerging Artists and Designers (CEAD) are offered valuable hands-on business opportunities that help them integrate into local economies and make important connections that will support their future careers.
  • Data analytics informs so much of the work we do in today’s economy and helps improve decisions throughout an organization. Students in Ryerson University’s Master’s program in Data Science and Analytics are benefitting from industry partners, such as, IBM Canada, St. Michael’s Hospital and Microsoft, to access extensive data on health care, software engineering, social media and finance in the workplace. By engaging with industry partners, the program ensures students graduate with the adaptable skills needed to navigate a changing economy.
  • In partnership with Ford Canada, the University of Windsor’s Clean Combustion Engine Laboratory (CCEL) is engaging in collaborative research that is at the forefront of combustion engine technology. This collaboration has increased jobs at Ford Canada, which employs numerous graduates. Together, the University of Windsor and Ford Canada are training the next generation of highly qualified personnel, addressing important challenges facing the automotive industry, and contributing directly to our economy at the local, provincial, and national levels.
  • Today more than ever an entrepreneurial spirit is essential for future leaders. That’s why engineering and business comes together at the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology program at York University to integrate hands-on learning for students, developing their business and entrepreneurial skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow through labs, scholarships and co-op opportunities.

Fostering a Globally Competitive Mindset

  • From cosmetics to food supplements to drugs, potential applications for nanoparticles in sweet corn discovered in a University of Guelph lab are now being explored and marketed by a start-up called Mirexus Biotechnologies, based in Guelph’s industrial park. Mirexus is investigating markets in nutraceuticals and drugs, and expects to grow to 72 full-time positions within 10 years.
  • A group of students are helping local communities in Western Mongolia, helping build water purification systems and assisting with health promotion in the community. Through the Outdoor Adventure Leadership program at Laurentian University, students gain hands-on experience and contribute to global health promotion and a broader global understanding.
  • From artificial intelligence, to robotics and regenerative medicine, University of Toronto is developing research that powers new economy sectors. Ross Intelligence, a U of T AI startup with a presence in Silicon Valley, established their research and development headquarters in Toronto, rather than a U.S. location, thanks to the favourable business environment along with ready access to U of T’s AI graduates and ecosystem. U of T is helping place the province at the cutting edge of this globally important technology while graduating new AI talent and creating jobs and AI startups that result in “made-in-Ontario” products and services.
  • High-tech global companies like Google, Facebook and Wish Shopping are looking to Ontario for top talent. Education and business collaborations are essential to building talent in a global economy. University of Waterloo Peter Szulczewski, alumni (and co-founder at Wish Shopping) is committed to finding top talent through co-op programs. He looks to Waterloo for students and graduates, funding 10 Wish Scholarships at Waterloo each year.

Driving the Innovation Economy

  • A natural resource contracting and consulting firm, R&B Cormier Enterprises Inc., conducts high-end remote-sensing work in collaboration with Algoma University’s Biosciences and Technology Convergence Centre, resulting in advancements in local forestry initiatives. Through these types of partnerships with local communities and industry partners students also get hands-on learning opportunities and contribute to vibrant economies.
  • Ontario greenhouses are becoming more economically competitive by revolutionizing agriculture practices through university driven entrepreneurial initiatives. At McMaster University the Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation master’s program teaches students how to be entrepreneurs through real-time venture creation.
  • Nipissing University researchers have created an online system, GeoVisage, to help farmers in Northern Ontario make more informed choices about how conditions might affect crops. This innovation is helping to ensure that they stay competitive both regionally and globally.
  • The creation of thousands of start-ups and revenue-generated companies have evolved through Start-up Garage, led by the University of Ottawa’s Innovation Support Services. Start-up Garage fosters youth entrepreneurship for Ottawa and Eastern Ontario youth between 18-29, helping accelerate their business through funding, office space, mentorship and support.
  • The Township of Minden Hills in partnership with Trent University’s Community Research Centre is creating a community energy plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, building agri-tourism in Haliburton, and developing educational programs for pre-schoolers. This entrepreneurial initiative is driven by Trent students and community partners to find answers to questions coming from the Peterborough region to contribute to a dynamic economy.
  • The Ontario auto sector is benefiting from simulation tools to test new energy efficient products to further reduce carbon emissions through access to the ACE research facility at Ontario Tech University. The ACE research facility uses state-of-the-art technology to inspire students, engage with the local community, conduct research, test automotive, architectural and aerospace products, improve the performance of elite athletes and provide services to many other markets including the tech industry, film production and motorsports.
  • Over 300 start-up companies and 144 jobs were created last year through Propel Entrepreneurship’s program at Western University. This forward thinking partnership with industry provides co-working space, seed funding, and mentorship for students and local entrepreneurs. These innovators are then able to take risks right here in the province and to create jobs in communities that they live in.
  • Brantford’s downtown has experienced a surge in urban renewal and development since Laurier University’s satellite campus opened its doors in 1999. The move was risky but showed innovative thinking and has transpired into downtown rejuvenation, boasting a bustling centre of cultural, academic and social activity.
  • RockMass Technologies is working to improve the safety and efficiency of geological mapping in the mining, civil engineering, and exploration industries. The start-up won the Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI) Venture Pitch Competition that is facilitated through the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre at Queen’s University. This research and innovation initiative provides resources to students, researchers and entrepreneurs, helping them scale their companies and drive local industry to support their innovation and entrepreneurship activities.