How does Waterloo produce so many 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.
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, 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.
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 email@example.com, 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.