Brainstorming in Boston

AMS and faculty representatives visit US to find inspiration for innovative spaces on campus

A recent trip to Boston has helped jumpstart plans for an innovation hub in Kingston.

Four student representatives and two faculty members spent two days in the city to research models that could be applied to improve campus services for student entrepreneurs in Kingston. AMS President Doug Johnson and Municipal Affairs Commissioner Troy Sherman were invited to the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences-organized trip. The invite came after they expressed interest in Queen’s expanding upon existing “innovation spaces” such as Innovation Park and Queen’s Summer Innovation Institute, a selective internship program for Engineering and Commerce students.

“Boston has created a so-called innovation ecosystem, which is a series of incubation spaces across a region” Sherman, ArtSci ’14 said. “There are tremendous financial and human resources available from distinct innovation labs that at the same time are able to provide each other resource support if needed.”

Sherman believes that despite structural differences (there are 52 post-secondary schools in the Boston metropolitan area) — the Kingston community still contains the necessary conditions for development of a similar innovation ecosystem.

The small contingent from Queen’s spent most of last week touring such spaces in and around Boston, including the D-Lab at MIT, Cambridge Innovation Centre, and the Mass Challenge, a competitive start-up event with $1 million in cash prizes and over $10 million in in-kind awards.

Sherman and Johnson plan to develop and release a comprehensive report by the end of the fall term in collaboration with Engineering Society President Taylor Wheeler, and Commerce Society Vice President (Internal) Daniel Farewell, with whom they travelled.

“There are key things we can do between now and the end of my term,” Sherman said. “We hope to work with the City, KEDCO, the different organizations at Innovation Park as well as the University and [St. Lawrence] College to create something that’s really unique in Eastern Ontario and that will set Kingston apart.”

Last Thursday in his address to AMS Assembly at City Hall, Mayor Mark Gerretsen spoke more broadly about the issue of student retention after graduation, also emphasizing the need for collaboration between the University and City to create better opportunities for innovative student ventures.

Johnson and Sherman plan to consult further with faculty societies and the student body after the report is released.

“Our vision is a shared space where students can build ideas and products and use all the resources campus has to provide. I would argue that the [programs] that we have in place now have limited resources and don’t expand out from campus and into the Kingston community,” Johnson said.

“It’s important that we’re not stepping on anyone’s toes, or cannibalizing student engagement from other groups, but the question remains: how do we get all the connections and resources needed in one place?”

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