For more than three decades, BlackBerry and the University of Waterloo have shared a strong relationship. Spanning research collaborations and offering co-operative education opportunities, Waterloo students past and present have benefitted from starting and maturing their careers at the multi-billion-dollar company.

More recently, the two institutions have taken their corporate partnership to the next level, expanding BlackBerry’s involvement within Waterloo’s research, student engagement and startup ecosystems, as well as shared office spaces for heightened collaboration. The five-year, multi-million dollar partnership agreement first announced in May, which focuses on driving research-powered innovation in Canada, will also offer an annual $10,000 BlackBerry Cybersecurity and Privacy Excellence Scholarship and cross-campus co-curricular learning opportunities such as hackathons.

Focus areas for the research activities include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and safety assurance to align with BlackBerry’s core business areas such as BlackBerry IVY™, the company’s recently announced Intelligent Vehicle Data Platform.

Helping lead this expansion is Waterloo graduate Sarah Tatsis (BMath '03, MMath '04). Now the senior vice-president of IVY Platform Development at BlackBerry, Tatsis says she witnessed the passion that exists within the student body and faculty community to take cutting-edge ideas beyond the classroom and into the wider world.

“With our new partnership, we’ve created a unique environment to help incubate and nurture the A to Z of research projects and technologies,” Tatsis says. “From Artificial Intelligence to Zero-Trust security architectures, my team and I are very much looking forward to working more closely with the University in the months and years ahead to help make an impact on a global scale.”

Like so many other Waterloo alumni, Tatsis’ introduction to BlackBerry all started through her co-operative education program, which led her to have a more than two-decade career with the tech company.

“Thinking back to those initial weeks where I showed my [then] University colleagues the innovative pagers that allowed people to send emails remotely, it’s humbling to see how far the company has come and how its rock-solid partnership with Waterloo continues to evolve and expand,” Tatsis says.

From student project to multi-billion-dollar company

In 1984, BlackBerry, known then as Research In Motion (RIM), grew out of a student project at the University of Waterloo. The brainchild of entrepreneurs and early colleagues, Mike Lazaridis (DEng '00) and Doug Fregin, BlackBerry was founded and landed its first contract all while Lazaridis was still an undergraduate student.

Since those first days, BlackBerry has formed a deep and virtuous relationship with Waterloo. With its world-class engineering and computer science talent, BlackBerry’s offices in Waterloo have welcomed many generations of emerging talent.

Today, in traditional collaborative fashion, BlackBerry buildings once located right next to the University, have grown to advance talent on campus, where departments like Waterloo’s Gateway for Enterprises to Discover Innovation (GEDI) reside. GEDI is the University's corporate engagement office, through which BlackBerry and the University of Waterloo developed this new partnership.

Content Calendar (this is an internal, living calendar within AirTable that gets updated daily. It’s how we organize ourselves a

The BlackBerry founding partner suite located at GEDI.

"BlackBerry and the University of Waterloo have had a strong relationship for more than 30 years," says Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. "With our new strategic partnership, BlackBerry is connected in a more significant and holistic way. We look forward to continuing to work together with a focus on emerging and evolving technologies, especially with BlackBerry IVY."

This shared space will be where a unique joint innovation program takes place. The joint innovation program is designed to fast-track research and technology developments into market-ready products through collaborations.

“At BlackBerry, we are constantly searching for ways we can advance the development of innovative technologies to secure and protect our increasingly hyperconnected world,” says John Chen, executive chairman and chief executive officer at BlackBerry. “As we expand our partnership with the University of Waterloo, we are excited to see how we foster the next generation of innovators.”

If you’re a student or researcher interested in learning more about the corporate partnership and how to get involved, you can connect with GEDI to speak with a client manager.