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James Milway, executive director of the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity.
James Milway, executive director of the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity.

Earlier discussion

How can universities help cities grow? Add to ...

Unfortunately our business community is often not aware of how advanced knowledge can help them in their own companies. So investing in tech transfer offices at universities is like pushing on a string.

10:45

[Comment From Guest]

Do you think Research Parks have a key role to play in this chasm?

10:48

[Comment From Jim Milway]

Sure. The businesses there are obviously interested in what's going on at the universities. So that has to be low hanging fruit for interaction by the school. The challenge is getting out to the "unwashed". It's like my advice to the city. What are the needs and what strengths match up with those needs.

10:50

Niamh O'Doherty - Jim, can you describe any examples of cities that have combined well with universities to grow?

[Comment From Jim Milway]

The best example is Waterloo. I think Saskatoon and U Sask. are working well together in the area of biotechnology. Brock has great strengths in oenology and I'm hoping that the Region is drawing on those strengths.

10:52

[Comment From Jim Milway]

I'd be happy to hear from others on great examples they are aware of.

10:52

[Comment From Guest]

Most of the parks in Canada host an incubator or accelerator facility specific to their sector. Examples like the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo for tech start-ups and MaRS in Toronto with their life sciences/bio incubator facitility as only two in Canada. Graduating companies is a top objective of each of our centres and the reality is that most of them are coming out of the insitutions, creating companies, and staying in our regions vs going to the US or elsewhere. Do you support the concept of the Incubator/Accelerator? Why? And how could they be doing a better job?

10:54

[Comment From Jim Milway]

I think the concept of accelerator makes sense. But I'm not aware of any systematic research that sets out their success rate and the return on investment.

10:55

[Comment From Jim Milway]

In some research we're doing right now it appears that our strongest Canadian companies - OpenText, McCain, Harlequin were exporting very early in their lives. If you have companies that don't have a vision and strategy to take over the world,then they won't.

10:56

[Comment From Jim Milway]

So I would be troubled if many of the companies in the accelerator were not thinking about exports - almost from Day 1.

10:58

[Comment From Guest]

Agreed. I cannot speak for all the centres across Canada, but it is an entry criteria for our companies when they apply to be a client of the Accelerator Centre.

10:59

[Comment From David]

Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone (DMZ) has focused on student innovation in a particular field and has seen close to 30 spin off companies graduate from that incubator.

11:00

[Comment From Jim Milway]

That's great. Does the DMZ provide business strategy advice?

11:01

[Comment From Guest]

What about collaborations between universities and private industries? This would help funding with research in academia and help business grow as well.

11:01

[Comment From Jim Milway]

And can I urge Ryerson to follow these companies over the next few years? How many are still around five years later?

11:02

[Comment From Guest]

David, the DMZ is a very different model from many of the other centres. I like the success rate! I too am interested in the stickiness factor to the GTA.

11:03

[Comment From Jim Milway]

Agreed. But the missing partner is the business community. Our federal and provincial governments have been providing significant amounts of R&D support to universities in the hope that the effort would spill over to business R&D. It hasn't. Our challenge for our business community to step up.

11:03

[Comment From Guest]

Waterloo is listed as one of the successes that comes to mind, but we obviously struggle with our own growth issues. One is building our Arts & Culture community at the same speed as our tech community. Do you have any examples of other canadian cities that have been successful in this area and how important do you think the balance in for long term prosperity?

11:06

[Comment From David]

The Ryerson DMZ does provide that and connects the students to a broad range of other resources too.

11:06

[Comment From Jim Milway]

Richard Florida is the expert here. His research shows that the types of workers in your tech community (and other knowledge intensive industries) will gravitate to cities with the cultural amenities. I know Waterloo Region is working at that. But don't forget you've got access to great arts and culture universities in Toronto. And Stratford down the road is working on that front too.

11:06

[Comment From Guest]

How do we make businesses "step up" in that regard then? Since federal funding is towards research labs in universities (which has steadily decreased over the last few years unfortunately), how can we convince businesses to invest in academic research and fuel more innovation in Canada? This is already the scenario in the States where major institutions are collaborating with private companies (drug companies for example)...

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