Building regional innovation partnerships that work: The City of Mississauga
Donna Heslin, MSc
Institute for Management & Innovation, University of Toronto Mississauga
Director of Graduate Programs and External Relations
ICUBE, University of Toronto Mississauga
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Faculty of Higher Education, University of Toronto
The federal government is looking to create, “an inclusive plan to foster a confident nation of innovators—one that is globally competitive in promoting research, translating ideas into new products and services, accelerating business growth and propelling entrepreneurs from the start-up phase to international success.” Within the City of Mississauga we have been working towards these goals not as individual organizations but with a collaborative approach that includes municipal government, post-secondary institutions, the Research Innovation Commercialization Centre (RICC) and our numerous industry partners. This partnership has developed over several decades and is a key component that has led to the success of our region as an innovative player both nationally and internationally.
What are we doing that works? Collaboration between the entrepreneurial groups has been developed through our Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) within the Peel region which has led to the successful implementation of a ‘no wrong door’ policy for all budding and established entrepreneurs. This same group co-hosted the successful ‘Unlock Your Big Idea’ pitch competition in May that created opportunities for local start-ups to gain funding and access to support and co-working space.
Our economic development office has established a life sciences cluster in the region, Canada’s second largest life sciences cluster with more than 400+ life science companies in the city. More recently the convergence between Mississauga’s life sciences and information and communications technology cluster is helping to advance innovation and deliver digital health solutions. The City works closely with local industry to provide support to existing companies and networks internationally to bring in new talent and companies to locate in the region.
Annually, Mississauga’s economic development office, the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), and the Mayor travel to BIO, the world’s largest biotechnology conference. This delegation works closely with key provincial and federal partners and allows Mississauga to network with stakeholders nationally and internationally to showcase our region as a globally innovative player. This delegation has driven collaboration within the region linking educational partners, industry and government and has successfully brought in several new companies to the region.
What are we building? Canada and Canadian culture has been criticized for being risk-averse in comparison to our counterparts in the USA and elsewhere. A key direction taken in the process of innovation for the City will be through entrepreneurship. Students and community members perceive that they can create their own careers and jobs on the basis of their creativity. The City of Mississauga has mobilized around this theme, with new educational opportunities offered by Sheridan College and UTM including the establishment of the Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI). The RICC and UTM’s own entrepreneurship centre, ICUBE work closely together to provide physical infrastructure, mentorship and access to start-up funds creating numerous opportunities for growth to the start-up community.
How can we grow from here? We need to take risks. 5-year plans and strategies are fine if we are provided with nimble and adaptable government support to ensure these initiatives flourish. Government needs to adopt processes that allow the implementers to react more quickly to changes within the technology and business sectors. This is a fast changing environment and we need to be able to act and react appropriately. If this doesn’t happen we will be quickly left behind.
Overall, what we can create as a community is so much greater than what we can build as individuals. Our continued collaboration between industry, government and academia will provide the opportunities for our community partners to innovate through research, education and connectivity creating the much needed opportunities to keep our stakeholders engaged and to further our economy.