The Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) Executive Director Greg Bavington, Sc’85, wants to make sure the next generation of student entrepreneurs are ready to take on the world. “I am glad Queen’s has rightfully decided to get serious about innovation and entrepreneurship. The challenge is going to be to do it big and do it well,” says Mr. Bavington.
Engaging international alumni and helping build international support for local entrepreneurs are among the reasons Mr. Bavington, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Benoit-Antoine Bacon, and Professor Sidneyeve Matrix will be taking part in special receptions in Los Angeles on April 19 and San Francisco on April 20. Mr. Bavington will present on “Inspiring Innovation: A New Era @ Queen’s” and will showcase the university as an innovation hub for attracting and supporting the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Ms. Matrix will be talking about teaching and innovation.
Mr. Bavington took some time to talk about the DDQIC and how Queen’s is inspiring future entrepreneurs.
Question: How did your Queen’s education and experience prepare you for some of the high profile projects you worked on such as the English Channel Tunnel and the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre)?
Answer: I wouldn’t describe those projects as mechanical engineering projects, but one of the distinctive things about Queen’s is that it always believes in the mastery of first principles. Once you have mastered them, you can transfer quite easily into different disciplines. Also, some programs at Queen’s emphasize group work and give you opportunities to work with other students. All of those things make you suitable to projects you thought you might not be able to get involved with based on your degree.
How has the joint gift from the Dunin and Deshpande families impacted the DDQIC?
The DDQIC has been fortunate to receive quite a bit of support from alumni and the government through some large grants. The Dunin-Deshpande gift is transformative. It puts the centre on a footing where we can look beyond one year and put long-term planning in place. There are two themes associated with the work we will do with the gift. One is a more regional and community effort. It will allow us to engage with the Kingston community, which is in line with the recent strategic partnership formed between Queen’s and the City of Kingston. The other theme is globalization. We are incubating businesses in Kingston, and they need to go international quickly, so they don’t languish in a relatively small market of Canada. So this gift gives us the ability to engage with the rest of the world and provide support systems for our students and members of the region.
What distinguishes the Queen’s innovation program from all others?
Right from the beginning, one thing that was quite distinctive about the centre at Queen’s was that it was a partnership between two faculties – the business school and engineering faculty. Even from Day 1, there were students from other faculties involved. So the centre had a pan-university footing in the early days. Now it resides in the Provost’s Office as a truly pan-university centre. That was very distinctive at the time – I don’t think we were able to find another university at the time that took the same approach.
What are some successes from the DDQIC?
There have been a dozen or more interesting businesses to come out of the centre. There are two ways to look at success. One is the success rate of ventures that we incubate that end up being long-term viable ventures, and the other is the diversity of ventures we incubated – everything from the food industry to electronics to medical devices. We are not a for-profit venture, capital-led incubator. We are an educational institution, so our definition of success is a little different. We don’t need everyone to leave with a successful company. We would love for that to happen but what is also important is that we prepare students for entrepreneurship and innovation. If a student comes in and learns that leading a startup is not for them – but learns their role in a company and learns about themselves – then that is a success as well.
What can alumni expect to hear about at the Los Angeles and San Francisco events?
We are going to be reaching out to our alumni community around the world, especially in commercially important centres. People can expect to hear us proposing very concrete, powerful and manageable ways to support our young entrepreneurs and innovators.
What does the future of innovation at Queen’s look like to you?
For a long time there has been interesting innovation happening at Queen’s in different areas. What has been lacking is mortar to cement them all together and a way to augment them all together to the benefit of students. Research and innovation at Queen’s have been for the most part the purview of faculty and graduate students. A tremendous number of our undergrads have gone on to be highly successful entrepreneurs, despite the fact, that there wasn’t a lot of support for them. So the initial years of DDQIC have been unlocking demand and giving that demand a place to flourish. It’s really changing the whole innovation landscape among undergraduate students, and it is starting to spread like a brushfire. Some people who are not sure if entrepreneurship or a highly innovative career is for them have dipped their toe in it and are learning they are quite capable. The centre is going to grow quite rapidly, and a lot of the capacity that we will need to support the growth will be unlocked by the Dunin-Deshpande gift. I am glad Queen’s has rightfully decided to get serious about innovation and entrepreneurship. The challenge is going to be to do it big and do it well.
Admission to California alumni receptions with Greg Bavington, Professor Sidneyeve Matrix and Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon is complimentary, but participants must register online (Los Angeles on April 19 and San Francisco on April 20) in advance.