Canada’s universities are home to many “bright, young innovators” and much more needs to be done to help bring their ideas to market, Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy told the Economic Club of Canada in an address today. Saying “it’s young people who will produce the next wave of innovative ideas and intellectual property,” Levy told a sold-out room at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel that universities need to better educate young people on how to create their own businesses and take their innovations to market.
In his speech entitled “Innovation and Entrepreneurship: A New Direction for Universities” he called on universities to build on their excellence in discovery-driven research and provide greater support to students engaged in market-driven research and innovation, stating: “I believe Canadian universities can and must do more to help foster the entrepreneurial drive.”
To do this, universities must take on three additional tasks:
- connect the best and most passionate innovators to each other, and to business, at the earliest stages
- teach those innovators how to be their own bosses; and
- support the kind of research that leads directly to markets and economic benefit.
Levy’s speech builds on his remarks two years ago at the Empire Club of Canada when he presented Ryerson’s vision to create a digital media innovation cluster in downtown Toronto. Shortly after the speech, in April 2010, Ryerson launched the Digital Media Zone which has already incubated and accelerated the development of 34 companies and partnered with 50 more.
Zone-based education can help stop the leakage of Canada’s intellectual property to other countries, by creating a place for young innovators to connect to businesses and investors in Canada. The landscape is starting to change, as a number of universities have launched successful initiatives similar to the Digital Media Zone. Support from the federal and provincial governments has been welcomed and is helping to lay a strong foundation for a globally competitive digital economy in Canada, powered by the nation’s youth.