University seeks innovation grant

A $70 million government grant could see a refocus in programs offered

The University is applying to receive a portion of a $70 million innovation grant being handed out to universities across Ontario, which, if received, will help Queen’s increase its focus on entrepreneurship.

The funding, named the Productivity and Innovation Fund, is intended to go towards entrepreneurial programs, such as the Queen’s Summer Innovation Institute and the Queen’s Innovation Connector.

The submission for the funds was drafted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) with input from the AMS. According to Gyula Kovacs, the Senior Media Relations Coordinator for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the fund is meant to increase collaboration between institutions while reducing costs. “The fund is part of the government’s commitment to transform Ontario’s higher education system to promote specialization and innovation,” he told the Journal via email.

The Ministry will be making an announcement with more details about the initiative in the coming weeks, he said.

Allison Williams, the AMS academic affairs commissioner, was one of the editors of the University’s submission for the innovation funds.

“What I focused on was ensuring that everything that students were doing and have been doing was represented in the document,” she said.

Queen’s administration declined to comment on the details of the submission, as it will remain confidential until they make an official announcement.

Williams said the funds, if received by the University, will go toward on-campus innovation “incubators” and “accelerators”.

“You could think of [an incubator] in a medical sense,” she said.

“It provides a rich environment full of resources, community, networking opportunities for young companies to grow.”

Accelerators, meanwhile, streamline the process of creating a start-up business, such as the Queen’s Summer Innovation Institute, she said.

The Queen’s Summer Innovation Institute provides start-up funds, workshops and mentors to help students create their own businesses during the summer months.

The application for funding comes as part of a larger strategy to increase entrepreneurship at the University, Williams said.

She added that the AMS is currently developing a new innovation policy paper, which will suggest changes to the University’s approach to innovation and entrepreneurship.

It will be used along with the AMS enrolment policy paper, ratified in September, to lobby on the behalf of students, she said.

According to Williams, the policy papers are both linked to the Ontario government’s differentiation strategy, where universities must choose a niche to receive funding. Each university created a Strategic Mandate Agreement for the province, which outlined their areas of focus.

Queen’s areas of focus were expanded undergraduate credentials, expanded graduate credentials and experiential and entrepreneurial learning.

“What’s great is now we have the standing policy on enrolment, which covers the expanded credentials, so we’ll pretty much be able to create a submission to the University,” Williams said.

She and the AMS will be lobbying to make changes to the Queen’s Strategic Mandate Agreement next semester, she said, with a focus on accessibility.

“For some groups, entrepreneurship, in the sense of pursuing a start-up, can be inaccessible … it can pull away from your classes. It can mean you can’t get a full-time job,” she said.

Williams said she’s interested in providing financial aid for entrepreneurial students, as well as improving campus spaces and integrating entrepreneurship into academics.

The details of the innovation policy paper will be revealed at the next AMS Assembly on Nov. 21, she said, and it will be moved to Assembly in January.



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