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‘Real impact’

From theory to real world: Almost $280,000 to strengthen Memorial’s innovation ecosystem

By Jeff Green

Memorial continues to support and enhance innovation and entrepreneurship in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announced on May 26 an investment of $139,000 for a pilot project led by the Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office (TTCO) to create 27 graduate fellowships.

The Supporting the Local Innovation and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem project received matching funds from alumnus Mark Dobbin (B.Comm.(Co-op.)’81), one of this province’s best known business leaders, for a total investment of $278,000.

The project consists of several components: the Insight Business Consulting Program, which matches graduate students from the Faculty of Business Administration with local startup companies; the Translational R&D Program, where graduate students evaluate the potential of their research for commercialization; and support for students and faculty to travel and participate in the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic program.

The initiatives provide startup companies with creative solutions, new insight, knowledge and resources while graduate students will gain real-world experience, industry connections and coaching to bring to market innovations generated at the university.

Fostering success

“At the TTCO, we work with clients from the different Memorial entrepreneurial groups, such as Genesis, the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, Navigate and the Entrepreneurship Training Program,” said Dr. Paula Mendonça, director of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Dr. Paula Mendonça
Dr. Paula Mendonça
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“We noticed that these early stage startups have an incredible amount of technical knowledge but sometimes do not have the expertise or the time to deal with business-related challenges, such as marketing analysis, setting up accounting systems or financial projections. Memorial business students have the skillsets and insight to help startups with their business-related problems.”

Dr. Mendonça partnered with Drs. Carlos Bazan, engineering chair in entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and Alex Stewart, chair in entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Business Administration, to create the 14-month project.

The TTCO recently held a call for applications for the Insight Business Consulting Program for the spring semester.

That program is free for startup companies and business graduate students will receive a $4,500 per semester fellowship. Between four and six startups will be matched per semester with students.

“Memorial is proud to play a central role in building a prosperous future for Newfoundland and Labrador.” — Dr. Neil Bose

Dr. Mendonça says selected startups will receive practical recommendations, while students will gain insight into the consulting field and apply classroom theory to actual business startup situations.

She says the feedback has been “tremendous.”

“Our entrepreneurial groups were extremely supportive of the project and shared that it would make a real impact on early-stage startups,” she told the Gazette.

‘Exciting investment’

The support of ACOA and generosity of Mr. Dobbin allows Memorial to help strengthen this province’s innovation ecosystem, says Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“Memorial is proud to play a central role in building a prosperous future for Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said.

“Motivated graduate students are gaining practical leadership skills while startups move forward with their innovative ideas. This is an exciting investment in our future business leaders.”

To learn more about the TTCO and its resources available to support innovation-driven research and entrepreneurship, please visit here.

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