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Universities need sustainable approach to strengthening external research partnerships

Universities need sustainable approach to strengthening external research partnerships

Stan Shapson, York University's vice-president research & innovation, recently gave a talk at a conference hosted by IP Osgoode and the Hennick Centre for Business and Law on developing strong public/private sector collaborations to create innovation.

With the challenge of a changing external context for research in Canada — both a shifting economic and social cultural environment— a new view of innovation is taking hold and a recognition of the value of collaborations across the spectrum of research is emerging.

Effective collaboration as a part of R&D strategies will provide for significant gains in competitive advantage in innovation and productivity growth for Canadian businesses. While more and more business leaders are recognizing the potential benefits of research collaboration, universities must take up this challenge as well. It's critical for universities to build a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to strengthening research opportunities with external partners.

While it is important that universities develop the skills, talent, and creative and innovative capacity to enhance productivity in the new global economy, building new models to meet these challenges will require collaboration and teamwork at all levels and across all value chains.

Increasingly, the government has recognized the importance of enhanced R&D collaborations and invested in them. However, these increased investments have had difficulty in producing effective public and private sector linkages, resulting in a significant innovation gap — remaining a fundamental challenge for the government.

The difficulty is that the availability and distribution of research funds are increasingly tied to strategic science and technology priority areas. But so much of what drives social change and fuels the modern economy is also derived from social sciences and humanities (SS&H) disciplines. Companies in these sectors (e.g., communications, design, management, law, etc.) have complex challenges and those that derive their primary knowledge inputs from the social science and humanities disciplines account for about $700B (58 per cent) of GDP output, and yet a significant proportion of the research dollars are going to science and technology (S&T) companies that support about $431B (42 per cent) of GDP outputs.

If Canada is going to remain competitive in the new knowledge economy we must heighten collaborative research and development across a broader suite of research areas.

York's innovation and partnership strategy takes a broader focus, contributing not only our S&T research but also leveraging the work of our SS&H scholars. York has established significant and sustainable community and regional innovation programs with partners in York Region.

The region is the sixth-largest municipality in Canada, with a growing population of 1.2M. It also serves as the centre-point of Canada’s leading technology corridor, poised to contribute as a significant innovation and commercialization hub given its strong base of IT/software and medical devices/biotechnology companies. It is home to nearly 50 per cent of the medical device technology companies in Canada.

To capitalize on our proximity to York Region, York University is currently working actively to form a unique consortium, establishing a Convergence Centre for the development of next generation medical device technologies in Markham. York works with a variety of regional partners on the social innovation side, including the United Way of York Region, regional hospitals, and regional school boards.

To grow and foster new and varied collaborations, a new unique innovation facility that York is developing as part of the convergence centre “Innovation York.” It will have the capability of both mobilizing social innovation research as well as S&T innovation and commercialization. This infrastructure will actively promote research opportunities that build on the research strengths across the university, address the needs of our partners and support the incubation of the most promising innovative ideas.

The key to fostering ultimate research success, whether in the public or private sector, science and technology or the social sciences and humanities, is a shared philosophy and belief in the value of true collaboration and its power to open new areas of opportunity and innovation.

Read the complete post on IP Osgoode's blog.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer.