With the austerity cure imposed on Quebec’s universities, the temptation to seek funding from the business world will only become stronger. For corporations, allying themselves with universities is beneficial particularly as it will make them more innovative.
At the end of 2014, the Centre d’entreprises et d’innovation de Montréal and McGill University signed an agreement to provide coaching and consulting services to help McGill students who are entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses.
In January, Guy Breton, President of the University of Montreal, told members of the Quebec MBA association that creating new university-industry partnerships and increasing cooperation between academia and private enterprises was essential to the development of universities. He urged that a forum on the subject be organized by fall.
Room for development
These statements are sign of a growing interest in corporate university partnerships in Quebec. The potential is great because this form of collaboration is less widespread than in the US, for example. While internships are common practice for Quebec companies, long-term research partnerships, although vital to innovation, remain uncommon. A 2012 Leger Marketing study revealed that 77% of research centers and professorships received less than 20% of funding from the private sector.
For businesses, these collaborations have the advantage of meeting their exact needs. They also allow them to be more innovative and thus become more competitive. Another advantage for companies: these partnerships are an opportunity to develop relationships with students expected to enter the labour market and perhaps join their teams. With today’s shortage of talent, getting hold of the brightest university graduates is an important asset to have.
Since 2011. the University of Montreal is partnered with Ubisoft, which funds the NSERC-Ubisoft Industrial Chair on Learning Representations for Immersive Video Games up to $200,000. By bringing students, researchers, engineers and developers together, this program combines academic expertise and practical application.
Last December, CAE Healthcare, which provides training solutions based on simulation devices, announced that it has extended its five-year agreement with the University of Montreal Faculty of Medicine. CEA has delivered equipment to the university’s Centre d'apprentissage des attitudes et habiletés cliniques and has provided them with instructors. In five years, this collaboration has allowed medical students to be better prepared for the realities of the job, through simulation devices and CEA transferring its training expertise in the aviation sector towards healthcare. In addition, the center serves as a research laboratory for experimenting with new improvements on its products.
Some corporate university partnerships are durable, like the one that has united Cascades with the University of Sherbrooke. In 2009, they entered into a deeper collaboration, which has resulted in not only research and development, but also in the welcoming of fifty interns per year. “I’ve hired many people, like engineers who worked in the factory, and from day one, they have been productive,” said Mario Plourde, Cascades Chief Operating Officer. “We can give them responsibility from day one, which makes a big difference!”