Monday, August 8, 2022

How does Waterloo produce so many founders?

A collage of startup founders

By Rose Simone. This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Waterloo Magazine.

What’s Waterloo’s secret sauce?

Whenever anyone seeks to emulate the University of Waterloo’s success in developing innovators, that question comes up.

Joel Blit.The answer, according to Joel Blit (MASc ’99), an economics professor who studies innovation, is multilayered.

The University’s intellectual property policy, co-op programs that meld academics with practical experience for students and the commercialization programs are critical. There are also more than 45 entrepreneurship programs and supports, including the flagship incubator Velocity.

But Blit says it’s also about the special way that all these factors come together at Waterloo.

Waterloo's core connections drive innovation

He notes that a number of universities have replicated one or more of the Waterloo advantages, such as the inventor-owned intellectual property policy or experiential learning programs. “But it’s how all of these things are put together at the core and how these things interact that creates something truly special,” he says.

Waterloo produces nearly twice as many tech founders as any other Canadian school and about 18.6 per cent of all the technology companies in Canada, according to a 2019 report from the Impact Centre at the University of Toronto. Waterloo’s historic strengths in mathematics, computer science and engineering are part of the reason Waterloo produces so many tech founders. OpenText, Clearpath Robotics, Intellijoint Surgical, Able Innovations, ApplyBoard, Arctic Wolf and Snapcommerce are just a few names on a list of more than 1,000 ventures, large and small, whose founders got their start in labs, classrooms and incubators at Waterloo.

Now, as the world emerges from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, Blit says that Canada will need to focus on long-term growth, embracing the changes brought on by the fourth industrial revolution. Growth is the only way to ensure that Canadians can maintain a high standard of living and pay down the debt while maintaining social programs including education and health care.

Universities are a critical part of achieving that.

Universities raise per capita GDP

A study by Anna Valero and colleague John van Reenen from the London School of Economics and Political Science, examining a database of 15,000 universities across 78 countries for the period 1950 to 2010, found that doubling the number of universities in a region raises its future per capita GDP by four per cent. A recent Deloitte economic impact report estimated that in 2017/18, Waterloo’s operating expenditures alone contributed $1.52 billion to Canada’s GDP.

There are “many levers” that can be pulled to increase innovation in a country, from intellectual property reform and tax incentives to the intake of higher-skilled immigrants, Blit adds. But investing in universities and the talent that is derived from them “will for sure have to be a central pillar of our innovation strategy.”

Vast majority of founders have university degrees

Universities boost innovation by creating technology hubs, such as Silicon Valley or the Toronto-Waterloo corridor that generate technological advances and new companies, Blit says. “What we do know from history is that over the last 40 years, the demand for university graduates has gone up, as have relative wages.”

And despite the “dropout” stories in the technology world – such as Mark Zuckerberg, who quit Harvard in 2005 to focus on growing Facebook, or Bill Gates, who dropped out not once but twice from Harvard to focus on building Microsoft – the vast majority of company founders do have degrees.

Ilya Stebulaev, an economist at Stanford Business School who has done considerable research on startups, found that of 1,263 founders of 521 U.S. unicorns, fewer than five per cent were post-secondary school dropouts.

New report released mapping the flow of phosphorus in Ontario's economy

This article was originally featured on the Water Institute's website.

The Canadian environmental organization Pollution Probe has recently released a new report, Mapping Phosphorus Flows in the Ontario Economy: Exploring Nutrient Recovery and Reuse Opportunities in a Provincial Context, produced in collaboration with academic experts from the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute, Université Laval and McGill University.

Roy Brouwer and Jorge Garcia HernandezRoy Brouwer, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Economics, contributed to the recently published report that received financial support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, to pursue an integrated approach in determining how phosphorus is used in Ontario and its movement throughout the provincial economy. To this end, Jorge Garcia Hernandez collected and synthesized large amounts of data from various data sources.

Phosphorus is a non-renewable and non-substitutable resource that is essential for crop growth and food security. Canada relies heavily on imports of phosphorus that have the potential to increase in price as supplies are depleted, pointing to a need to take proactive measures to ensure its sustainable use over the long term. Phosphorus has a wide range of applications, including as fertilizer, in detergents, flame retardants, and more, but when found in excess in the environment, it can contribute to harmful algal blooms that threaten aquatic ecosystems and drinking water supplies. This new report offers insight into where phosphorus losses may occur, which is particularly important for those parts of the province experiencing considerable environmental challenges related to nutrient pollution like Lake Erie.

The key findings from this report point to the most significant P flows in the province being associated with agriculture. While key waste streams from agriculture include manure and slaughterhouse waste, a large amount of phosphorus is also found in the food products that leave the sector and which are consumed by citizens. In turn, this phosphorus eventually finds its way into various urban waste streams, including municipal WWTPs, food and organic waste disposal, and septic systems.

The report explores potential opportunities for recovery and reuse in the agriculture and urban sectors, and spotlights technologies currently being piloted or available in the market, providing a set of practical examples that point to the feasibility of phosphorus recovery and reuse in Ontario.

“Exploring options for nutrient recovery and reuse is unquestionably important given the finite nature of phosphorus reserves, its role in ensuring food security and its impacts on the environment,” says Christopher Hilkene, Chief Executive Officer at Pollution Probe. “In addition to outlining the flow of phosphorus through Ontario’s economy, this report highlights practical examples of the feasibility of nutrient recovery and reuse solutions, and points to opportunities for policy frameworks to play a role in technology adoption in support of the circular economy and economic growth, the management of recovered resources, and protection of the environment.”

The report is a first step in the development of a Canadian Nutrient Recovery and Reuse platform, supported by regional hubs across the country that will act as local communities of practice. The platform will contribute to growing and strengthening a nutrient recovery and reuse economy that is reflective of the unique Canadian environmental, economic and social challenges associated with nutrient management. 

Download the full report here.

Nominations invited - Upcoming vacancy on Renison's Board of Governors

This article was originally featured on Renison University College's website.

Call for nominations for Renison's Board of Governers against a backdrop of the bridge to University Colleges from main campus.The Renison Board of Governors invites nominations for one (1) upcoming vacancy among the elected members of the Board effective January 1, 2023 for a three year term. The Board is seeking a candidate with a legal background. To be eligible for nomination, the nominee must be at least 18 years of age and be committed to acting in the best interests of Renison as a whole community.

The Renison University College Board of Governors values diversity. The Board welcomes and encourages applications from all qualified individuals with diverse experiences based on race, ethnic origin, religion, age, colour, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, ability, or disability, including women, 2SLGBTQ+, Indigenous Peoples, and other visible minorities

Any person may nominate a candidate. Nomination details should include the candidate’s name and contact information, a curriculum vitae or summary and a statement as to why the nominator recommends the candidate.

Nominations should be addressed to the Governance Committee, care of Lisa Kessig, Executive Assistant to the President at, or Renison University College, 240 Westmount Road North, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G4 and be received no later than August 22, 2022.

The Governance Committee of the Board will consider all nominees following August 22, 2022, and will recommend the nominee it believes to be the best able to meet the requirements of Renison to the Membership for election at the Annual General Meeting on October 26, 2022.

Link of the day

International Cat Day

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, immigration consulting, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors looking for targeted support for developing online components for blended learning courses, transitioning remote to fully online courses, revising current online courses, and more please visit Agile Development | Centre for Extended Learning | University of Waterloo (

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

Course templates are available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly.

The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Supports are available for employees returning to campus. Visit IST’s Hybrid Work and Technology guidelines and workplace protocols to assist with the transition.

The Writing and Communication Centre has in-person and virtual services to support grad and undergrad students, postdocs and faculty with any writing or communication project. Services include one-to-one appointmentsdrop-ins at Dana Porter Libraryonline workshopswriting groupsEnglish conversation practice, and custom in-class workshops.  

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action (CCA) has services and programs to support undergrads, grad students, postdocs, alumni, and employees in figuring out what they value, what they’re good at, and how to access meaningful work, co-op, volunteer, or graduate/professional school opportunities. Questions about CCA's services? Live chat, call 519-888-4047, or stop by our front desk in the Tatham Centre 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

Renison's English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

The Library is open with expanded hours for access to book stacks, drop-in individual study space, bookable group study rooms, drop-in access to computers and printers, book pick-up services and IST Help Desk support. Librarian consultations, Special Collections & Archives and the Geospatial Centre are available by appointment. Full details on current services and hours are available on the Library’s COVID-19 Update webpage.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: or visit the SVPRO website.

The Office of Indigenous Relations is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the University's Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support - MATESGlow CentreRAISEWomen’s Centre - Click on one of the links to book an appointment either in person or online for the term.

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk 24/7 in the Student Life Centre. Drop-off locations are also open again in SLC, DC, DP, SCH, and all residences.

Co-op Connection all available online. 

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

GSA-UW supports for graduate students: 

The Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) supports students’ academic and social experience and promotes their well-being.

Advising and Support - The GSA advises graduate students experiencing challenges and can help with navigating university policies & filing a grievance, appeal, or petition.

Mental Health covered by the Health Plan - The GSA Health Plan now has an 80 per cent coverage rate (up to $800/year) for Mental Health Practitioners. Your plan includes coverage for psychologists, registered social workers, psychotherapists, and clinical counselors.

Dental Care - The GSA Dental Plan covers 60 to 70 per cent of your dental costs and by visiting dental professionals who are members of the Studentcare Networks, you can receive an additional 20 to 30 per cent coverage.

Student Legal Protection Program - Your GSA fees give you access to unlimited legal advice, accessible via a toll-free helpline: +1-833-202-4571. This advice covers topics including housing disputes, employment disputes, and disputes with an academic institution.

The Graduate House: Open Monday to Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. We’re open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. The Graduate House is a community space run by the GSA-UW. We’re adding new items to the menu. Graduate students who paid their fees can get discounts and free coffee.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join our “Waterloo Warriors” team on the website or app. #ItsInYouToGive

Warriors Youth Summer Day Camps, July 4 to September 2. Open to boys and girls age 5-18. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Multi-Sport and Games & Volleyball. Register today.

FLIGHT Virtual Summer Camp, Tuesday, August 2 to August 13. FLIGHT virtual summer camp provides a strong introduction to tech entrepreneurship to girls aged 13-18 who self-identify as Black or another underrepresented minority.

2022 Global Summit: Nanotechnology for a Healthier and Sustainable Future, Wednesday, August 10 and Thursday, August 11.

PhD oral defences

Psychology. Yeung Ryan, “The Persistence of Involuntary Memory: Analyzing Phenomenology, Links to Mental Health, and Content.” Supervisor, Myra Fernandes. Available upon request from the Faculty of Arts, Graduate Studies and Research Officer. Oral defence Wednesday, August 10, 10:00 a.m., PAS 2464.

Chemistry. Mexin Cheng, “Dynamical Studies of Two Dimensional Transition Metal Dichalcogenides.” Supervisor, German Sciaini. Please visit the Faculty of Science Thesis Submission Notices website for details on requesting a copy. Oral defence Thursday, August 11, 2:00 p.m.

Chemistry. Elif Pinar Alsac, “Investigation of Coordination Environments in Heterogenous Catalysis.” Supervisor, Rodney Smith. Please visit the Faculty of Science Thesis Submission Notices website for details on requesting a copy. Oral defence Friday, August 12, 9:00 a.m., C2 361 and remote.

Chemistry. Anand Lopez, “Interfacing fluorescent DNA oligonucleotides with graphene oxide and metal oxides: from adsorption to sensing.” Supervisor, Juewen Liu. Please visit the Faculty of Science Thesis Submission Notices website for details on requesting a copy. Oral defence Friday, August 12, 1:30 p.m.