The post-secondary institution is the place to reach young people and make them active participants in the innovative agenda which builds on the strength of Canada’s creative environment, diverse culture, highly skilled workforce, world-class educational system and internationally recognized research community, says Ryerson University president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Sheldon Levy.
In an address to the Economic Club of Canada, Levy said he placed his faith in young innovators to generate the next wave of inventive ideas, adding that they should be the focus of efforts to build Canada’s innovation economy.
To help these students reach their potential, Levy said universities need to connect the best and most passionate innovators to each other and to business at an early stage, teach the innovators to be their own bosses and support the kind of research that leads directly to markets and economic benefit.
“If we accomplish these three tasks, we help stem the tide of intellectual property flowing out of our country, we improve our track record of commercialization and we will lay the foundation for industry clusters that can compete globally,” he said. “And, perhaps, most important, we create a community of entrepreneurs.”
Levy said Canadian university campuses are filled with bright young innovators in every sphere and he used the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) that Ryerson launched in April 2010 as an example of how universities can become logical settings to deliver support by creating new research spaces for student-driven research and learning.
Starting off on just one floor, the DMZ is located on two floors at the university’s 10 Dundas St. E. building and it will soon be expanded to include a third floor. Young people in the zone are working on nearly 80 different innovations.
“Like all university programs, there is a rigorous admissions process to get into the zone,” Levy said. “Applicants must have a unique innovation in prototype and they must be passionate about their innovation. They must also have a business plan with a clear market need. In return, the zone provides workspace to pursue their research together. The DMZ is a sample of the best young innovators in the city.
“Some of those developers, once they are admitted, decided to combine their ideas and pursue new innovations together. So the zone has already proven to be stronger than the sum of its parts.”
Levy said the majority of developers are Ryerson graduates and undergraduates while the remainder are from other academic institutions, the private sector and other countries.
Ryerson recently created six exchange fellowships with the Institute of Technology in Delhi and three with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras following Levy’s visit to India last August to cement Ryerson’s ties with India’s post-secondary institutions.
Last year, a DMZ team – the Flybits IP platform developed by a Ryerson graduate’s PhD research – created the Paris Metro System’s new Mobile Transit Companion that provides real-time schedule updates and other station information.
“In other words, it’s an innovation built here (at Ryerson),” Levy said. “Based upon intellectual property, that is owned and controlled here.”
Levy revealed that Flybits is developing a context-aware application for Go Transit.
“We are connecting innovators to businesses around the world and in our own backyard,” he said. “We are connecting innovators to investors as well and this is a truly important function…The DMZ makes it easier for innovators and angel investors to find each other…These investors consistently tell me time spent in the DMZ can be the difference between a lost idea and investment-ready innovation. The results we have seen so far suggest they are right.”
Since its launch 19 months ago, the DMZ has incubated the development of 34 companies and nearly 50 firms have partnered with Ryerson in the zone.
In addition to being a leader in public and cutting edge research, Ryerson also offers part-time degrees, distance education and certificates through the G. Raymond Chang School of Education named after the university’s Jamaican-born chancellor, Dr. Ray Chang.
Guyanese-born director of athletics, Ivan Joseph, was recruited from the United States three years ago to re-shape the university’s sports program through the $60 million Maple Leaf Gardens construction project.
The new sports complex equipped with state-of-the-art facilities is expected to open next March.