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The Kroo Bay Slum in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on April 19, 2012. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
The Kroo Bay Slum in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on April 19, 2012. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Business School News

Canadian students’ slum-health idea finalist for $1-million Hult prize Add to ...

The Globe’s biweekly business-school news roundup.

For the second year in a row, a team of business students from Canada has advanced to the finals of the $1-million (U.S.) Hult Prize global case challenge for social enterprise startups.

Six business undergraduates from York University’s Schulich School of Business will compete against five teams from four countries for the grand prize to be awarded in September in New York.

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The Hult prize, which challenges business students to devise affordable solutions to global problems, put its spotlight this year on the issue of non-communicable chronic diseases in urban slums. For example, according to Hult prize organizers, an estimated 74 million slum-dwellers suffer from diabetes that goes mostly untreated and, as a result, leads to early mortality.

For their pitch, the Schulich students set up REACH Diagnostics to develop a patent-pending detection test for diabetes that can be produced on an ordinary printer for two cents, according to a press release from Schulich. For its first-place regional finish, the Schulich team won a two-month stay this summer at the Hult Prize Accelerator, a social entrepreneurship incubator in Boston, and a one-year membership in the Clinton Global Initiative established in 2005 by former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

The final round includes two teams from the United States and one each from France, India and Spain.

Last September, students from McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management won the $1-million prize for a project that promotes cricket farming as a low-cost source of nutrition in poor countries.

$1-million donation to Quebec B-schools

The legacy of John Dobson, the renowned Montreal investment fund manager and philanthropist who died last year at 85, lives on with a $1.1-million donation this week to four Quebec business schools.

The gift from Formula Growth Ltd., which Mr. Dobson founded in 1960, is divided in roughly-equal proportions (exact amounts were not disclosed) among entrepreneurship-focused business-school initiatives at Montreal’s McGill University, Concordia University, HEC Montréal and Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, all past recipients of support from Mr. Dobson in his lifetime.

The announcement, timed to the release of a biography of the firm’s late founder, also came with a message to Quebec business leaders and politicians in the final stretch of the hotly-contested provincial election on April 7.

“Particularly, right now, in this highly-charged political climate, we challenge Quebec business leaders to seize the day and drive progress,” said president Randall Kelly, in formal remarks at the official announcement earlier this week. “Invest in our universities. Support our students. Lead with us and invest in our collective future,” he said, arguing that successful corporations have a responsibility to give back to universities as engines of the economy.

Of Mr. Dobson, who donated to more than a dozen universities and other public institutions in Canada, Mr. Kelly said “his big idea was always to stimulate economic development through entrepreneurship and education. That thinking still applies today.”

Later, in a telephone interview, Mr. Kelly said “it was important for us to get the four schools together to show collaboration and co-operation among the educators in Quebec and Montreal.” Noting with disappointment that funding of higher education has received little attention in the provincial election, Mr. Kelly added “we believe that education is a key, knowledge is a key and information is a key.”

Beyond the donation, Mr. Kelly said Formula Growth officials currently work with the four Quebec business schools as visiting lecturers, advisers and, for some student entrepreneurship contests, as judges.

As with its equity portfolios, Formula Growth will assess the quantitative and qualitative impact of its donation over the next few years, Mr. Kelly said.

“Return on investment is not a bad thing in investing and education.”

Expansion of student entrepreneur program

With a gift of $750,000 from Toronto-Dominion Bank, Wilfrid Laurier University plans to expand a three-year-old campus initiative to help young entrepreneurs start their own business.

Launchpad, a start-up incubator facility housed at the university’s School of Business and Economics, currently serves 58 students and alumni involved in 40 projects. With the bank’s donation, announced this week, the university expects to double the number of participants over the next two years and extend Launchpad’s reach to its satellite campus in Brantford.

Set up in 2011, Launchpad operates both as a course (a 12-week semester) and a program, with business and non-business students as well as alumni eligible for mentoring and other support for startup ventures.

Professor tapped to lead global faculty group

The Academy of International Business, with a global membership of more than 3,300 scholars and specialists, has named a professor from Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business as its board’s president-elect.

Rosalie Tung, the Ming and Stella Wong Professor of International Business at Beedie, will serve a three-year term, including president in 2015. By chance, her appointment coincides with the organization holding its annual conference at Beedie this year.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here.

Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net.

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