Durham’s tech and innovation sector competes on global scale
By Ian McMillan – Metroland
This is the third part of a three-part series looking at the emerging innovation and technological based businesses in Durham Region.
DURHAM — As the innovation and technology cluster in Durham Region continues to grow, the pressure has never been greater to maintain and gain on its successes.
But that’s easier said than done.
Toronto boasts a successful innovation hub, the MaRs Discovery District. There’s also two major hubs in Waterloo, the Canadian Innovation Centre and, in Kitchener, Communitech. In Kawartha, the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster is also putting pressure on Durham’s Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre.
So how to compete?
Part of the answer is through the Spark Centre’s innovation and technology partners, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College.
Dr. Michael Owen is UOIT’s Vice-President, Research, Innovation and International. He said programs at the university are responsive to business and industry needs.
“We tend not to have programs of a generalist nature,” he said.
The university also fosters partnerships with many industry and business leaders including OPG on the electrical engineering and nuclear side and with smaller businesses across Durham Region, explained Dr. Owen.
“The Region has a number of industrial clusters and our work (at UOIT) fits in with these clusters,” he said.
Through these partnerships, the university is able to gauge its degree requirements and the technical and soft skills students need.
“Staying ahead of the curve is always very difficult,” he said, adding business structures and information technology are constantly changing. “It’s a lot different now than it was even five years ago.”
But it’s not only in-class instruction that’s fostering innovation at UOIT. It’s also entrepreneurialism.
Throughout the year a number of bootcamps are offered at UOIT for students and faculty members. These camps show how to take an idea, turn it into a product or service and how to take it to market.
“We provide support to faculty members and students to develop their own companies,” Dr. Owen said.
“In the last five to 10 years we’ve really harnessed our energies and expertise into entrepreneurship,” he added.
Durham College also fosters partnerships with business and industry leaders. Susan Todd, Dean, Science and Engineering Technology, said Durham College is constantly in touch with employers to find out their needs as the college provides “market-driven programs” that not only allow employers to succeed but also students.