Initiative Campaign

Encouraging Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs

Summer Innovation Initiative

  • [Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative photo]
    Members of the company, Northwood, design wayfarer sunglasses created from Canadian maple and exotic woods.
  • [Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative photo]
    The student founders of Northwood share similar interests in design and woodworking.
  • [Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative photo]
    Launched initially with their sunglasses, Northwood hopes to develop other wood-based products.
  • [Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative photo]
    Aelius Co. students photograph their jewelry collection inspired by stories.

Think of it as a boot camp for entrepreneurs. Forty Queen’s students from disciplines ranging from business engineering to kinesiology and film studies spending the summer working together to develop genuinely commercial ideas.

Now in its second year, the Queen's Summer Innovation Initiative is a joint creation of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Business, intended to give would-be entrepreneurs a shot at starting their own businesses. After two weeks intensive training in how to set up a venture, the participants – who range from students who have just finished second year to recent graduates– form teams and then get to work on an idea with the help of two mentors. At the end of the summer, they pitch their ideas to a jury that awards the top three with money to develop them further.

Apart from a small amount of seed funding from the university, the program is made possible entirely by donations from alumni. That includes the $2,000 each team receives to cover any possible expenses and the $7,000 stipend paid each student. "That money won’t make them rich," says program director Greg Bavington, but it helps guarantee that the program remains broadly accessible. No one wanted to create a situation where, says Bavington, "you can’t apply unless you can afford not to work for the summer."

"Experiential learning," says Bavington, "is incredibly powerful. It's not, 'here’s a lecture on patent searches'. It's 'you guys have an idea, now go out and find if someone else has done it.'"

"There’s a very different look in a student’s eye."