CANADA'S UNIVERSITIES TRANSFORM AND INVIGORATE OUR CITIES in a multitude of ways. Whether as home to students and faculty who contribute economically, culturally and academically, or as meeting places for public debate, art galleries, exhibits or informative lectures, universities help their communities thrive, evolve and stay connected.

Take the University of Toronto, for example. Home to four art galleries, numerous theatres and one of the top research libraries in North America, U of T is also the 14th largest employer in the Greater Toronto Area, and a powerful economic driver for the region. Its employees, students and alumni put an estimated $5 billion a year into the local economy.

"Universities are the intellectual hubs of the creative economy," writes Richard Florida, best-selling author and a professor of public policy at George Mason University, in his new book Flight of the Creative Class. "They are undeniably powerful talent magnets, attracting the best and brightest. and brightest."

Universities open cities to new ideas and thinking and connect them to a world where commerce and trade are increasingly global. In cities across the country, universities attract talented and creative faculty members and students, from Canada and abroad. In turn, students and faculty, the university itself and its graduates contribute to economic activity in the community, and to the vibrancy and quality of life, making the city an attractive place to live and work and a magnet for talented and creative people – and for the investment that follows them.

Cities benefit in other ways too. Universities perform one-third of all research in Canada, across disciplines and in partnership with community groups and the private sector. Research and knowledge transfer at Canadian universities helps our cities thrive and flourish. Examples are plentiful: Researchers at McGill University's architecture school have developed the Grow Home – a 1,000 square foot three-story townhouse. Buyers, generally young couples, have the choice of 33 customizable options which allow tradeoffs between amenities and costs. Grow Homes are cheap to build and monthly costs are usually less than rent. Since 1990, more than 10,000 Grow Homes have been built in Montreal and thousands more in North America and Europe.

The University of Toronto's Centre for Urban and Community Studies is helping to ensure that gentrification of some of the city's most vibrant neighbourhoods does not displace the poor and elderly. The research team is documenting, analyzing and forecasting trends in seven neighbourhoods west of downtown. Their work will help residents in those neighbourhoods influence decisions about growth and development in their own backyards.

The University of Winnipeg is helping to reverse inner-city decline by working with community partners to build capacity and develop community resources. The university has helped create a tenants' association for those living in rooming houses, set up a mentoring program for inner city youth to foster life skills, and hosts regular summer institutes on inner city revitalization.

Research on transportation systems carried out by HEC Montréal, the École Polytechnique de Montréal and the Université de Montréal has been translated into software now being used in 24 countries to help cities design schedules and routes for mass transit and waste management companies. The software not only saves money but also helps cities manage better delivery of these services.

And at Wilfrid Laurier University, a geography professor is looking at why people move and travel around cities the way they do. Using new, computerized social survey methods, researchers are tracking people as they commute, work and shop – and even drive their children to hockey practice. The research helps city planners, businesses and decision makers better understand how people plan, schedule and manage their lives. It supports assessment of social and environmental issues such as controlling automobile emissions and providing Canadians with practical advice on time-life management.

The universities featured in this article are members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

BY DEFINITION, A SPRINGBOARD ENABLES FEATS OF AGILITY. And working agilely with Atlantic Canada's university research community, students and the private sector are central to a new business network called Springboard.

Headquartered in Halifax, under the auspices of the Association of Atlantic Universities, Springboard serves 14 of the region's 17 universities, leveraging research successes to eager commercial markets and creating research opportunities and jobs for university students and graduates. Springboard has received $3.6 million in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency through the federal Atlantic Innovation Fund.

"There's a big opportunity for business in Atlantic Canada with the commercialization of research and development," says Sara Jane Snook, Springboard's executive director. "Springboard aims to create a positive climate for that commercialization."

Springboard helps researchers at smaller universities who want to protect, transfer and commercialize technology, but do not have needed support services. It provides researchers at larger universities with access to specialized staff resources and funding programs.

Tracy Doucette, a recent Ph.D graduate in behavioural neuroscience at the University of Prince Edward Island, sums up Springboard's value. "The patenting application process is foreign territory to most scientists, and yet it is a part of university research that we need to pursue and explore. Marrying scientific excellence with commercialization provides researchers with new avenues and opportunities to advance our work, as well as to translate our work into tangible economic benefits for the region."

"In the last year alone", adds John Read, vice-president, academic and research at Mount Allison University, "Mount 'A' has seen two new companies spin off the R&D going on in the university. However, we can't afford to do very much in terms of big groups of researchers or in terms of our research development office. Springboard will help assist Mount 'A' to access researchers at our partner universities."

For Dave King, president and CEO, Genesis Group Inc., the technology commercialization arm of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Springboard broadens the work he has done with MUN's 18-year-old organization. "We can now draw on expertise from each university within the Springboard network and access all the technology companies within Atlantic Canada." There are already success stories. North Atlantic Biopharma Inc. plans to market an intravenous feeding product based on omega-3 nutrients from seal oil in Asia, with the help of a strategic alliance with a Chinese pharmaceutical company. The product is currently in clinical trials.

Another success story is Dalhousie University earth sciences professor John Gosse's new technology for dating the earth's surface and past geological events. Since opening his lab in 2001, Dr. Gosse has processed more than 1,000 rock samples. "The facility already is helping Atlantic Canada's mining, oil, and gas industries better locate deposits, resulting in a more efficient mining and drilling process," says Ms. Snook.

Equally important is the role Springboard plays with the region's private sector ensuring that it gains greater familiarity with the high quality of research and development at universities, both big and small big that are responsible for close to 60 percent of the region's R&D. To benefit from commercialization, active engagement of business and industry is essential.

"Our Atlantic Canadian universities have a major role to play in the region's economic transformation, " says Joseph McGuire, Minister of ACOA.

"We are hopeful that Springboard will be an effective mechanism to ensure that applied university research will meet the needs of the private sector."

Ross McCurdy, executive vice-president and COO of Ocean Nutrition Canada Limited and a volunteer member of Springboard's regional advisory board of directors echoes these goals, "Springboard will help to enhance the linkage, communication and interaction between our universities and industry, a simple concept, yet a huge task. These interactions are what's required to either solve problems or develop new and better products if industry is to sustain its competitive edge, globally,"

If industry is the mother of invention, Springboard is poised to propel the East Coast research industry onto the scene – and to really bring research to life in the region.


The story began in the late 1970s, with an outbreak of a genital skin disease called chancroid caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. By the time researchers at the University of Manitoba learned how to grow H. ducreyi in the lab, the outbreak had been brought under control. With no patients to study, the researchers had little chance to learn more about the disease.

But their work attracted interest in Kenya, where chancroid and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) raged nearly unchecked. The scientists were invited to Nairobi to study chancroid epidemiology – as long as they brought their new lab technology and taught local scientists how to use it. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Scientists Alan Ronald and Margaret Fast arrived in January 1980. They began studying chancroid at a downtown clinic in a community that was home to several thousand prostitutes. Over several years, the researchers and their Kenyan partners made important advances: their work on eye disease changed the way such infections are treated around the world. But the disease that propelled them into the front lines of a pandemic, and made the University of Manitoba one of its big players was still over the horizon.

That changed in 1985. At the time, there was no indication the disease had entered the country. But a University of Washington research student found that 65 percent of female Kenyan prostitutes were HIV-positive.

Now, 20 years later, the focus is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With financing from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Nairobi's makeshift labs are being replaced by a $3.8- million world-class research facility; part of U of M's medical microbiology and infectious diseases program is based in Nairobi; and Kenyan researchers benefit from training in Winnipeg.

In the slums of Nairobi, still home to thousands of prostitutes, the scientists made one of their most startling discoveries: some sex workers exposed to HIV hundreds of times don't get infected. Keith Fowke, professor of medical microbiology is trying to figure out why these women, about five percent of the sex workers, don't get infected. One possibility: women do get the disease, but somehow fight off the infection. If Dr. Fowke and his colleagues find which part of the immune system is responsible for this protection, an HIV vaccine might result - a huge windfall from a small international partnership that began by studying a relatively rare genital skin disease.

"The University of Manitoba is now touted as one of the premier international HIV research institutions in the country," says Dr. Fowke. The Kenyan program has led to collaborations in India, where scientists are working in projects financed by the Canadian International Development Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

It was luck, in a twisted kind of way, to be on the ground and ready to go when the HIV pandemic struck. But luck favours the prepared mind, and Manitoba scientists have blazed a path for others to follow, perhaps with the same success in other fields. "I think we've got a model for very successful collaboration that advances science, that prevents disease, develops people, and builds capacity on the ground," says Frank Plummer, head of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Canada's universities are building vital global linkages, through more than 3,000 active partnerships worldwide. Some, like Manitoba's, start small and build naturally. Whatever their genesis, the projects are based on the needs of all involved. It's that aspect – making links based on mutual needs – that is a hallmark of Canadian universities' international collaboration.

CANADA IS WELL POSITIONED FOR SUCCESS IN TODAY'S GLOBAL MARKET, and much of the credit lies with the products of Canadian colleges and universities: a well educated workforce and leading-edge research. To further enhance our global success, business and academia must work more closely. Despite our successes, we've danced to a different beat in terms of culture, processes, logistics and goals, so we'll need to overcome some of our differences. Here's how academia can engage business.

  1. DEMONSTRATE A BUSINESS CASE. If you come to us for support, ensure we know what's in it for us. Sell us on a value proposition, which can be as easy as promising an opportunity to meet other business connections, providing us with a trained workforce or a co-branding opportunity.

  2. LEVERAGE YOUR KEY ASSETS. Business may have the financial capital, but academia has much of the intellectual capital business craves.

  3. COMMUNICATE THAT YOU ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS. We live in a marketing-driven world, and successful schools will aggressively position themselves with prospective partners, securing support, which generates cash flow for research; this in turn brings in tools, staff, students, and so on. Market your success and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  4. STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS. Business schools, like the Schulich School of Business at York University, actively partner with private sector organizations and can attract large investments. Use your successes to demonstrate the benefits to other businesses.

  5. LEVERAGE YOUR INNOVATION. After graduating from the University of Calgary, Sun's James Gosling developed the Java programming language, which runs devices ranging from mobile phones to supercomputers. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are directly or indirectly employed today because of Java. How's that for making money from an idea?

  6. EMPHASIZE KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER. Business and researchers can both benefit from streamlining the ways in which ideas turn into products. Consider the impact on patents and licenses, and on spin-off companies that surround most of our large research universities.

  7. INTEGRATE WITH BUSINESS. Co-operative programs are a great way for us to crosspollinate. Push us for more student placements, which will boost the skill level and experience of graduating students, and further integrate your organization with ours.

  8. THINK LONG TERM. Enunciate the long-term opportunities of working with your school (i.e.: sponsorships, branding opportunities, ongoing education for our employees). Most universities tend to focus on short-term solutions, while business works in longer cycles; demonstrate strategic, long-term goals and benefits.

  9. INVESTMENT IS A TWO-WAY STREET. Remember that even companies engaging in philanthropic ventures view you as a potential customer, and want to sell you supplies, electricity contacts, computer systems, insurance etc. Make your purchases using fair, open processes, make sure your corporate partners are given a fair opportunity and be sensitive to the situation.

  10. TAKE SMALL STEPS AND BUILD TOWARDS SUCCESS. Involve local businesses in advisory committees and when they better understand your challenges you can ask them to participate in a bigger way.

THE WELL BEING OF ANY SOCIETY IS LARGELY DEPENDENT ON AN EDUCATED CITIZENRY AND A ROBUST ECONOMY. As Canada progresses further into a global 'knowledge economy', business relationships with postsecondary institutions will expand. Here's how business can engage with academia.

  1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. It seems basic, but businesses often do not understand how universities function. A key output is research – sometimes directly applicable to business, but often not. Businesses wanting to work with universities need research of their own. What is the university best known for? What companies have existing – and successful – relationships? What added value can a company bring to a university?

  2. LEVERAGE UNIVERSITIES' Substantial Expertise. Universities have a wealth of expertise in their many faculties – business, law, science and technology, fine arts, health and medicine. So it makes good sense for businesses to tap into the intellectual capital of academics.

  3. BECOME A CHAMPION FOR THE INSTITUTION. Increased competition for everything from funding to faculty and students has meant that universities may have adopted many of the same marketing techniques that businesses employ. Business can help universities by understanding each institution's individual brand positioning, and by publicly acknowledging it in some of its own materials.

  4. GOVERNANCE 101. Universities are no exception to the demand for good governance. They receive public funds so they are subject to a form of scrutiny often not accorded even public companies. Most contracts will be tendered and formal selection protocols followed. It is a cost of doing business with universities – and it is just the right thing to do.

  5. CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. Most large companies have embraced CSR and view it as an integral part of their business. Universities are no different. Know in advance the types of causes that post-secondary institutions support. For example, York's Advance Credit Experience (ACE) program demonstrates our commitment to helping "at risk" secondary school students to experience some of the benefits of a post-secondary education.

  6. YOUR FUTURE EMPLOYEES ARE RIGHT HERE. Many students' first experience of business comes through part-time employment. Keep up campus recruitment but also make your business visible to students who want information about future work as a guide in their studies. Find opportunities to educate undergraduates and faculty about what business needs in future employees. And begin long before graduation.

  7. BE AWARE OF THE CULTURAL CLIMATE. Universities' administrators, faculties and students are often divided about private sector involvement on campus. Take into account that some may oppose any perception of increasing 'corporatization' of universities. That shouldn't deter business – but be prepared to occasionally defend positions in sometimes highly-public forums.

  8. MAKE THE APPROPRIATE BUSINESS CONTACT. York has 7,000 faculty and staff members, so it's critical that businesses find to the right person. Check York's web site for "Doing Business at York". Look for similar sites at other institutions.

  9. ACT WITH TRANSPARENCY. A motherhood statement yet it is important to be clear about the nature of any relationship with the university. This will help build long term relationships.

  10. HAVE FUN! Universities are exciting and intellectually stimulating environments. Business can be assured of dealing with bright people full of good ideas, and, as with all relationships, the most successful ones have a strong element of enjoyment.

WE LIVE IN A KNOWLEDGE-BASED SOCIETY in which economic and social progress depend directly on education and fundamental research. In Canada, education and fundamental research are largely publicly funded, and if governments neglect them, our country will suffer serious reductions in our standard of living and quality of social services.

Both our national and provincial governments have responded to this challenge over the last decade, first with significant new investments in university research, and then with more recent commitments to postsecondary education, as exemplified in the Ontario Budget of last spring and the recent conference of premiers, in which the funding of postsecondary education was given great prominence.

The knowledge-based society is sometimes taken to involve an economy driven by technology, in which the traditional liberal arts—the humanities and social sciences—have little role to play. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The modern economy is driven by knowledge broadly conceived, requiring cooperative work by groups of people, where communication, team play, and cross-cultural understanding are at the heart of the enterprise.

The knowledge economy is in fact strengthening the economic returns to university education in the liberal arts, whose graduates have the skills in language, communication, team building, and creative thinking which are so valuable in the new economy. Humanities and social science graduates in Canada earn higher incomes and have lower unemployment rates than the average graduate of community colleges and private vocational schools, institutions nonetheless often praised in the media as being more attuned than universities to the labour market. While graduates in the life sciences and physical sciences, and professionals in health, engineering, business, and law are also critical to a modern economy, we must not neglect the central role played by the liberal arts. Many of the key issues facing Canada and other developed countries—the ethics of biotechnology, the management and celebration of cross-cultural differences, the proper scope of government in a mixed economy—are issues of the liberal arts which do not have technological solutions.

While the liberal arts are thus important to the economy, they are equally important to our national discourse on values and policies. As an economist and university president, I believe the rising standards of living associated with the new economy will increase the desire of students to come to investigate the great questions of the liberal arts: Who am I and why am I here? What are beauty, virtue and justice? How can we build societies that reflect our values of justice and compassion?

These questions are not new, and indeed they help define us as a species: we humans alone among living things can contemplate them. Such questions take on a special urgency in the knowledge-based society, as we confront the social and ethical dimensions of rapid technological change, from protecting our environment to managing the results of genetic discoveries in human reproduction and health care.

Recent books by scholars such as Robert Fogel, a Nobel laureate in economics, and Robert Lane, a political scientist at Yale, have focused on what Lane calls "the diminishing returns from money" in contributing to human happiness, the latter being more dependent today for most people in the United States on personal knowledge, culture, companionship, and spiritual beliefs than on additional personal income. Far from obliterating the liberal arts, the knowledge-based economy and its associated prosperity may well contribute to the growth of the arts in education and research, as young people and adults turn more of their attention to issues of individual and social values and the foundations of a good society.

In universities, research in the humanities and social sciences will continue to probe the depths of human feelings and beliefs and explore the complex interactions among individuals, groups, and nations. Universities are among the most enduring of humanity's institutions because the human imagination has no boundaries. As a species we will never tire in our efforts to understand better who we are and how the natural world around us works.

This article contains material drawn from Paul Davenport's address to University of Toronto at the time of his Honorary LLD degree in June 2000.

THE CRAFT OF BOAT BUILDING GOES BACK CENTURIES IN NOVA SCOTIA. But following the collapse of the Atlantic ground fishery in the 1990s, things looked bleak. Local boat builder A.F. Theriault & Son was down to a skeleton crew, with few orders on the books. Then a unique research program focusing on import substitution got underway at nearby Université Sainte-Anne. A committee of community members looked at products that could be manufactured locally, and Sainte-Anne students did feasibility studies on the most promising. Five were found to be viable.

One product was pleasure craft, which were being imported in large numbers into Ontario from the United States. Managers from A.F. Theriault, members of the committee, recognized an opportunity. Today the company is selling high-end boats across North America.

"The influence of a university in a community like Church Point is incalculable," says Russell Saunders, vice-president, marketing with A.F. Theriault. "It provides that intellectual stimulant and brings an influx of people from elsewhere."

A university plays an important role in any community. Its importance is magnified in small communities, where the institution is simultaneously a leader in economic development, a centre for culture and recreation and a ladder to a better life.

With just over 3,000 full-time students, Nipissing University is the fourth largest employer in North Bay, Ontario. The university's economic impact on the city is about $90 million a year, including salaries, student spending, university purchasing and spending by visitors. Just a few examples demonstrate that the benefits of universities to their communities extend beyond economics: The City of Kamloops, B.C. had long had a problem with melting snow carrying sediment into the river, resulting in dirty drinking water. Scientists at Thompson Rivers University were asked by the city to investigate which technologies could best provide remedies. The result: a partnership among the university, the city and Zenon Environmental Inc, leading to a recently completed $50-million facility, the largest water treatment plant in the world to use a state-of-the-art membrane technology filtration process. The plant also houses labs and a classroom for the university.

At the Université du Québec en Abitibi- Témiscamingue, researchers examine issues related to the sustainability of the resource sector, including improved wood-processing techniques, sustainable forest practices and ways to reduce pollution from mining. Nathalie Perron, a scientist with forestry company Tembec-GRF Québec, believes the university's proximity fosters collaboration and catalyzes industry innovation.

In Peterborough, Ontario, the Trent University Centre for Community-Based Education accepts proposals from community-based groups with research and planning needs. Since its inception in 1996, it has facilitated some 75 projects a year, providing research to local organizations and giving experience and credit to students. For more than 30 years, Northern Manitoba students have been able to attend university closer to home through Brandon's Northern Teacher Education Program. The program has increased the number of aboriginal teachers and provided new role models for children in northern communities.

Of all the demographic trends cutting across Canada, one prevails in every region: shrinking rural populations. "The top challenge for universities in rural and regional areas is to set the stage for winning the demographic race," says University of Prince Edward Island President Wade MacLauchlan.

With an economy based on agriculture and fishing, the province has found a natural niche in biological resource innovation. UPEI plays a leading role in bio-resources, with both the Atlantic Veterinary College and the Institute for Nutrisciences and Health in Charlottetown, a National Research Council facility scheduled to open next year.

Dr. MacLauchlan knows that universities are an essential element in their communities, providing economic development to attract and retain skilled young people, and broad-based initiatives to enhance the health of the larger community. "It's imperative that more of our young people see their future here, and that new people and new investments come this way."


The report, entitled Momentum: The 2005 Report on University Research and Knowledge Transfer is the first public report on the collective efforts of Canadian universities in research and knowledge transfer. It provides a comprehensive account of recent federal investments in university research and gives business leaders and decisionmakers a solid understanding of how these investments are paying off for Canada.

The $50 billion figure was determined through a new study for AUCC by Université de Montréal economist Fernand Martin, who measured the dynamic impact of university research. University research contributes significantly to the ability of other sectors to improve the productivity of their labour and capital, by enhancing the skills of graduates and producing and transferring new technologies and new knowledge throughout the economy. Examples include:

  • Université de Sherbrooke has patented software that can run on a microchip and be used to convert the human voice into a digital signal at minimum bandwidth. It is being used in more than one billion cell phones and 300 million computers worldwide.

  • Research at the University of British Columbia has resulted in a new drug called Visudyne, which has helped save the vision of about 300,000 people suffering from age-related macular degeneration. Global sales totaled more than $1 billion US since 2000.

  • The University of Waterloo developed computer software in the early 1990s that led to the creation of the first Internet search engine. The company Open Text was spun off in 1991 to market the software, and today has 2,100 employees around the world, and over $290 million US in revenues.

The figure on the economic impact of Canadian universities reported in Momentum has tripled since 1993. In 2004, Canadian universities accounted for more than 38 percent of all research done in Canada, with R&D expenditures of more than $9.3 billion, reflecting a growing demand for university research from all sectors of Canadian society and the economy.

Economic impact is achieved not just in commercializing new products and services and taking them to market. One of the most important contributions made by universities is developing a highly qualified and adaptable workforce. Canada's ability to compete and prosper in a global knowledge economy is increasingly dependent on attracting and retaining universityeducated workers. In 2004, there were 1.2 million fewer jobs for those who had not completed high school than in 1990. Over the same period, more than 1.5 million jobs were created for university-degree holders in Canada.

Over the course of their careers, university graduates typically earn $1 million more than those with a high school education, and have the highest levels of workforce participation and lowest levels of unemployment. What's more, they live longer and healthier lives and broaden the tax base for all Canadians.

A new study by the Council of Ontario Universities confirms the employment success of even recent university graduates. According to COU, two years after graduation in 2002, the overall average employment rate for Ontario graduates of undergraduate degree programs was 96 percent, and they were earning an average salary of $43,578.

Those university graduates are key to making Canada more prosperous. As Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research In Motion, maker of the Blackberry wireless solution device, said recently, "Commercialization happens when we educate the next generation of students with the latest cutting-edge technology and the latest techniques and processes."

Students are inspired by studying and assisting in projects with the very best researchers, Mr. Lazaridis added. "And how do you get the best professors and researchers?" he asks. "By funding their labs and their research. It's simple. It doesn't take a genius to figure this stuff out. That's the way it works."

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