Making Ontario Open for Business through Innovation
November 1, 2019

Ground-breaking research at Ontario’s universities has created, and continues to create, the kind of discoveries that help feed us, save lives, transport us to work and power our homes.

Many of the discoveries we’ve come to rely on, like radiation treatment for cancer, as well as, new inventions that have the potential to improve quality of life for communities across Ontario, such as developing a litmus-like test for E. coli in water, are coming out of Ontario university campuses every day.

Ontario needs a robust innovation ecosystem where research like this continues to be strengthened – one that drives research from discovery to invention; that will lead to an environment where innovators are empowered to take risks right here in the province and are encouraged to create jobs in the communities throughout it.

This type of ecosystem is vital for a dynamic economy, enabling key players to realize their potential as drivers of innovation and help keep Ontario’s best and brightest talent at home, while continuing to attract jobs and investment.

Ontario is already garnering a global reputation, where talent and research, as well as university-generated intellectual property (IP) are attracting investment from multinational companies, like Shopify and Microsoft.

But in order to help realize the province’s full potential, we all have a part to play. By strengthening the critical roles of universities, industry and government, a strong ecosystem can be built to help fuel innovation and keep Ontario open for business.

Conducting ground-breaking research

One way to help drive competitiveness in the province is through Ontario university research. Our institutions are continuously exploring ways to improve the quality of life for the people of Ontario, help support local economies and address the complex issues facing our province today.

Their research helps find solutions to the challenges facing our province – ranging from making health-care systems more effective to increasing access to digital infrastructure and protecting communities from the impacts of flooding.

These researchers are helping provide the fuel for innovation throughout Ontario. They create the foundation that can lead to the commercialized products and services that benefit all Ontarians. In order to move their discoveries off the campus into the public realm and private sector, researchers work with technology transfer offices (TTOs) – on-campus offices that help identify commercially viable IP.

Partnering with industry to drive regional economic development

Another way university ideas and discoveries are brought to market is through university-business collaborations. Researchers are continuously engaging with small businesses and industry on projects that help find solutions to both community-specific problems and the larger, complex issues facing the province.

In many cases, these partnerships support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – which make up 99.7 per cent of Ontario businesses – by sharing infrastructure that helps them develop new technologies and finding solutions to company challenges – ultimately helping to drive local industry and regional economic development.

SMEs can also help researchers transfer their early applied research to the private sector where it can be commercialized and taken to market. There is opportunity to further incentivize these businesses to invest in university applied research, which can both help companies scale and keep commercialized ideas in Ontario.

Finding ways to de-risk investment for SMEs can help encourage a risk-taking, entrepreneurial culture within Ontario’s postsecondary and business sectors that will further drive the province’s economy.

Attracting business throughout Ontario

Additionally, as Ontario’s universities continue to attract foreign investment through their research and IP, there lies an opportunity to encourage businesses, large and small, to establish headquarters in rural and remote communities throughout the province.

A company’s presence in an area has ripple effects throughout the community – local talent is trained and reciprocal partnerships emerge between the larger company and local industry and SMEs. Each side benefits from the products and services the other is producing, optimizing distribution and the local supply chain.

By strengthening the roles of business, universities and government in the research and innovation ecosystem, the province can further drive discovery, invention and commercialization to create a regional and globally competitive economy.

We can all work together to fully unleash this potential.

David Lindsay
President and CEO
Council of Ontario Universities