A Driver of Economic Growth

The York University Economic and Social Impact Report 2020 Summary

York University contributes to the provincial economy in significant and direct ways: first, through the employment and immigration of its access and international alumni; second, by its focus on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship; and third, through hundreds of industry partnerships that benefit both the private sector and the university and its students.

York’s attributable direct annual output effects exceeded its 2018 operating expenditures more than two-fold.

The impact of York University on the Ontario economy is equal to over $4 billion, or about 0.6% of provincial GDP.

Direct institutional spending at York was equal to $914 million, with indirect and induced effects raising the institutional spending footprint to over $1.4 billion.

Total estimated spending footprint of York, its students and its alumni in 2018


Estimated total when accounting for indirect and induced spending


Together, through accessibility, the downstream effects of having facilitated immigration to Canada and international student education, York could be directly attributed $2.34 billion in spending and 10,569 jobs in 2018. Including indirect and induced effects, York’s impacts in these areas increases to over $4 billion and 13,480 jobs.

Measurable Institutional Impact

We can attribute to causal economic impact to York in three ways: alumni who accessed post-secondary or university education because of York; alumni who immigrated to Canada because they studied at York University; spending in Canada by York’s international students.

Adding these effects together, we estimate that York was directly responsible for $2.24 billion in economic output and 10,569 jobs in Canada in 2018, with these figures expanding to over $4 billion and 13,480 jobs when accounting for indirect and induced effects. An upper bound estimate of attributable tax revenues generates a figure of $913 million, well in excess of the $582 million spent on York by governments

York University has effects on the distribution of economic activity and people within Canada. Among students  surveyed, only 24.5% reported their primary residence before studying at York was outside the GTA, but among these, more than half (51.2%) indicated they would have been unlikely or very unlikely to come to the GTA if not for their studies at York.

Among alumni, 10% of respondents indicated their primary residence before attending York was outside Canada, and 65.5% of these alumni were now living in Canada.

The alumni survey asked how many would have been unlikely to be living in Canada if not for attending York, meaning that York played a crucial role in their residency in Canada. The share was 44.2%, which across all York alumni translates into approximately 7,277 people aged 25 to 64 who would not be living in Canada if not for having attended York.

The average income of these alumni was $128,080 in 2018. This translates into a total direct output impact of $932,038,160 in 2018, which would correspond to $1,789,513,267 when including indirect and induced spending. In terms of jobs, the employment rate of these alumni was 92.7%, meaning they would include 6,747 workers, with a further 63 induced jobs.

There are significant direct-to-private- sector economic impacts associated with York’s activities: between the increased income and expenditure of those individuals who wouldn’t have gone to university (or possibly any post-secondary institution) but for York, the expenditures of current international students and the expenditures of former students who have since become permanent residents or citizens, the impact of York University on the Ontario economy is equal to over $4 billion, or about 0.6% of provincial GDP. Without York, the GTA, Ontario and Canada would lose out considerably in the long-term.

Table 6 Measurable economic effects of York University, 2018

Economic OutputJobs
DirectDirect, indirect and inducedDirectDirect, indirect and induced
Access$1,138,056,496 $2,185,068,472 1,6212,918
Immigration$932,038,160 $1,789,513,267 6,7477,810
International Students$268,708,544 $36,195,458 2,2012,752
Total$2,338,803,200$4,010,777,197 10,56913,480

Table 9 Upper bound estimate of total tax revenues attributable directly to York access, immigration effects and international student recruitment, 2018

Access$314,258,628 $216,752.91 $531,011,535
Immigration$226,424,553 $150,552,059 $376,976,612
International students$1,976,176 $3,161,881 $5,138,056
Total$542,659,357 $370,466,847 $913,126,204

Entrepreneurship and Commercialization

Entrepreneur alumni credit York University for giving them the desire and tools to create and build their own ventures. They also recognize York’s role in supporting their development through the stages of commercialization.


Among alumni entrepreneurs, 21% agreed with the statement that they became an entrepreneur because they attended York University, suggesting that York University was instrumental to 16,491 entrepreneurs launching their ventures. Additionally, 30.2% of York alumni entrepreneurs said their ventures had been more successful because they attended York University.

In the 2018 Graduate Programs Outcomes Survey, 12% of York respondents indicated that they both expected to be and subsequently were self-employed, compared to 10% on both measures across Ontario, a statistically significant difference. Four percent more of these entrepreneurs also employed others.

Bringing together York’s entrepreneurial initiatives, Innovation York data shows a considerable increase in startups meaningfully supported since 2016-17. As shown in Figure 6, they project this growth will continue for the foreseeable future.

Figure 4 Startups receiving meaningful support from York University 2016-17 to 2023-24

Commercialization success

Beyond supporting entrepreneurship among students, York continuously innovates to create spaces that help new ideas come to market in an effective way.

In 2017, York established its YSpace, a 10,000-square-foot community innovation centre in Markham Centre. YSpace supports entrepreneurs by providing a co-working space, access to industry advisors, education, workshops and technologies. By 2019, the YSpace incubated 32 ventures that raised $5.8 million in funding, with the incubator itself generating $3.1 million in revenues, creating 87 jobs

To participate in the YSpace incubator programs, founders must have products in market or ready for launch within three months and must be committed to working on their venture full time and in the YSpace for at least three days per week. Further, the startup should have potential to grow and scale; the team should be focused on solving a societal problem using innovative methods; and the project team must be driven, coachable and collaborative.

YSpace has also launched a consumer packaged goods Food and Beverage Accelerator program with the goal of tripling company sales through mass-market distribution. The project supported eight ventures in its first year and will continue for two additional years to support 18 more ventures (YSpace Markham 2019). Examples of ventures incubated in YSpace to date are outlined in Table 10.

Table 10 YSpace ventures incubated to date

VentureProductIndicators of success
Able Innovations (graduated)Technology to support patient mobility in healthcareTwo collaborative research projects, over $600,000 in funding raised
Creation CrateE-learning platform combining digital course content and hands-on projects to teach STEM skillsOver 17,000 subscriptions sold in 65 countries
EatableSnacks, including all-natural gourmet popcorn with cocktail, wine and spirit inspired flavoursSold in over 50 locations, nine magazine features
Mero Technologies (graduated)Providing smart property management solutionsDeployed in 10 facilities including Pearson International Airport and Hilton Hotels and Resorts, 30% initial client efficiency savings
ScreenfluenceAll-in-one hardware solution to help businesses control their display content remotely and easilyDeployed in over 150 locations, 111% annual growth since 2017
Suku VitaminsNatural gummies that provide beauty and wellness benefits and are sugar and gelatin free.Sold in over 250 locations, 58.12% month-over-month growth

Commercialization success stories

• Droplet Lab, a startup commercializing an image-based surface tensiometry instrument using a smartphone. Dr. Alidad Amirfazli from the Lassonde School of Engineering secured $50,000 through the prototype fund, as well as $125,000 through the NSERC I2I program. These funds supported the development of a commercial prototype that is now being sold globally through the startup company (dropletlab.com).

• Founded in 2014 through Innovation York’s commercialization unit, Bitnobi Inc. is a startup focused on commercializing a privacy-protected data-sharing technology developed in the laboratory of Dr. Marin Litoiu. This YorkU startup has had a considerable amount of success, securing $470,000 from the federal government, $200,000 from the Canadian Department of National Defense to deploy and test the technology and a further $1,000,000 to take the prototype from phase 1 and
turn it into a commercial product. In addition, Bitnobi was named as a key one in the Canadian Personalized Health Innovation Network led by Roche Canada.



businesses started by York alumni

Partnerships and work-integrated learning

Partnerships with industry and work-integrated learning opportunities for students are integral to how York innovates in its learning and discovery.


In 2018-19, York University had 178 industry partnerships, with these generating private funding equal to $4,601,702. These figures are primed to grow.

  • The largest York University private sector partnership in recent years has been with Sanofi Pasteur. In 2018, Sanofi Pasteur committed to providing $1.5 million over five years, on top of $1 million from NSERC, to support the NSERC/Sanofi Industrial Research in Vaccine Mathematics, Modelling and Manufacturing, occupied by distinguished research professor Jianhong Wu.
  • A large project aims to develop an all-weather radar-based system to help improve roadway safety for first responders. The project, associated with the Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM), has connected AUG Signals Limited with the Lassonde School’s Civil Engineering; York’s Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid-Response Simulation Facility; and Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science, among others, with additional financial support of $1.44 million from Public Safety Canada. 
  • York University partnered with the Southlake Regional Health Centre and the University Health Network in implementing the Health Ecosphere. The Health Ecosphere received $15 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and $19.45 million from over 30 other partners. From 2016 to 2019, the Health Ecosphere had led to the commercialization of 77 new products in 62 new markets and fostered almost 100 new partnerships, while creating and maintaining over 150 well-paid jobs.

Work-Integrated Learning 

Increasingly, institutions have added elements of work-integrated learning (WIL) into their offerings. While WIL is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of elements, such as work placements and applied research projects, it is a model of education that formally and intentionally integrates a student’s academic studies within a workplace or practice setting.

In 2018-19, more than 9,000 York students (19% of the full-time undergraduate total) participated in some form of a work placement. Moreover, 21% of students participated in an experiential learning opportunity outside the classroom.  

  • In fall of 2018, the Lassonde School of Engineering launched a four-year Honours Bachelor of Computer Science degree in partnership with Shopify, known as the Dev Degree. Students in the program are embedded within Shopify development teams through a 4,500-hour paid internship (double the length of a traditional co-op) over the course of their studies, while Shopify pays the students’ tuition over the full length of the program. This program falls under the Industry Partnership Stream of Lassonde’s Computer Science Honours program, which places a special emphasis on experiential learning and allows students to earn practicum credits.
  • Starting in 2019, York began delivering third-and fourth-year bachelor of commerce courses at the IBM Canada headquarters in Markham. This initiative aimed to situate students’ learning within a dynamic business environment. Students would benefit from joint networking and learning events alongside IBM employees, as well as the engagement of IBM staff within the classroom. The company reports that it hired 41 students from York University in 2018, mostly from Lassonde and Schulich, for co-op and internship opportunities. The value of IBM’s in-kind contributions to York add up to $1.8 million, which indicates how much the company values the partnership.