University research and partnerships drive regional growth in Ontario
Ontario’s global competitiveness relies on creating the networks for collaboration among universities, new and established economic sectors, and communities in every region of the province, a new report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce recommends.
“The most cost-effective way to unleash Ontario’s economic potential is to invest in ecosystems of talent, trade, infrastructure and innovation,” the report, titled The Great Mosaic: Reviving Ontario’s Regional Economies, states.
It advises government to invest in the building blocks of regional economic growth, including strengthening innovation centres and cluster development to promote long-term and sustainable growth. The report also argues that the graduates, researchers and ideas coming out of universities play a direct role in helping business, regions and people in the province grow and thrive.
The report recommends developing several avenues for co-operation and collaboration among universities, the province and business sectors:
- A thriving pipeline of talent will prepare Ontario for shifts in the labour market. As job training becomes a lifelong process, “partnerships between industry and post-secondary institutions will play a growing role in supporting an increasingly dynamic workforce,” the report states. University access and support programs can help harness the skills and talent of underrepresented workers, including indigenous people, recent immigrants and people with disabilities.
- Complementary strategies, such as investments in infrastructure, housing, and livability support talent recruitment and retention. Postsecondary institutions can be important collaborators on infrastructure projects — pooling resources, sharing risks and helping ensure projects meet community needs.
- Universities can help fill the gaps in Ontario’s innovation capacity. Ontario is a world leader in public investment in research & development, led by the university sector — and by U of T’s global excellence in areas such artificial intelligence and regenerative medicine. As the report points out, within the past ten years, U of T has worked with over 600 companies to help move research from the lab to the ‘real world.’ “The province can better … use existing research capabilities to reinforce its regional economic development,” the report recommends.
- Postsecondary researchers can provide valuable information on how the province is performing on a range of economic development indicators, including innovation, trade, talent and infrastructure. In addition, further data is needed on emerging skills mismatches and the impact of disruptive technology.
- Tech transfer centres can help connect businesses with the entrepreneurs, inventors and IP that can lead to new product lines and larger markets. For more remote regions, the benefits are many. “Regions that embrace innovation are able to raise living standards, attract workers, and retain high-quality jobs,” the report states.