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Queen's University

Working together to develop our economy

Community Breakfast, November 25, 2010 at the Radisson Hotel, Kingston

Good morning everyone! Thank you all for coming.

This is the first Queen's - Kingston community breakfast since 2008. It was important to me to reinstate this event. Since I came back to town, a year ago this past summer, one of my priorities has been to re-establish Queen's presence in government circles, and to enhance and expand the Queen's-city relationship. This will be an important focus in the months and years ahead.


Principal Daniel Woolf greeted many attendees at the
Community Breakfast

A particular welcome to Mayor Rosen and Mayor-elect Gerretsen and my colleagues from St Lawrence College. What other city this size can boast having three post-secondary institutions that in their unique way - but more importantly by working together - have such a significant and positive impact on the life, economy and future of the community.

The relationship between Queen's and Kingston, over the past several years, has been defined to a great extent by ‘Aberdeen', and I'd like to dispatch this issue at the outset.I announced two days ago that I would not bring fall homecoming back for another three years. The numbers showing up on Aberdeen have continued to trend down in the past two years. But I am of the view - as are the mayor and the police chief - that the cycle of dangerous street parties that has become regrettably synonymous with a great university tradition is not yet well and truly broken. I remain concerned about the safety of students, alumni and Kingston residents, which is paramount, and I remain concerned about the reputational impact that Queen's and Kingston, by extension, have suffered. I believe the potential consequences of the return of dangerous street gatherings far outweigh those of delaying the return of homecoming for another few years. I trust this decision will keep us on a path of progress. I certainly appreciate the leadership and efforts of the Alma Mater Society, the Society of Graduate and Professional Students and the Queen's University Alumni Association in this regard.

The functions, responsibilities and knowledge base at Queen's are extremely complex. I believe that the relationship between the University and the City - both the corporation and the community - has to be, accordingly, more sophisticated. We need to establish much stronger relationships in ways and areas that we haven't in the past. I've heard it said that Kingston is Queen's HOST city - but in fact, Kingston is our HOME city. To that end, Queen's is engaged with the City and KEDCO on a strategic plan for university-city relations. I'd like to thank Gerard Hunt and Bob Silverman for their leadership, and everyone from City Hall and from Queen's who are involved.

A three-to five-year framework for action is being developed to address:

  • quality of life
  • community planning
  • student engagement, and
  • economic development.

This morning, I want to talk about economic development. I want to talk about the shared opportunities that Queen's and Kingston have, to work together, to make our community more innovative, vibrant, attractive and sustainable. I will discuss three key areas:

  • The university's impact on the local economy and the benefits of enticing more students to stay and more alumni to return
  • Current research innovation and opportunities for more commercialization and partnerships, and
  • Sustainability and the green economy.

We know that Queen's and Queen's students contribute to the local economy and the life of the community. In 2003, it was estimated that the presence of Queen's contributed more than $1 billion annually to the local economy and supported more than 8,000 jobs. Since then, between new buildings and major renovations, Queen's has built the equivalent of a K-Rock Centre every year, with 75% of our labour costs spent locally. But we need to think about the long-term economic and resulting social benefits of having Queen's in the city and about maximizing those benefits.

[photo of Principal speaking at the Community Breakfast]

Principal Woolf addressing the crowd at the Radisson Hotel on Kingston's waterfront

Keeping Students and Grads in the City

Attracting and retaining talent is a challenge for a city this size and in this location, and the community needs to create and grow businesses. I believe we can make progress on both these fronts, most effectively, if we work in partnership.

A 2008 study by KEDCO and the Monieson Centre at Queen's School of Business examined the retention of Queen's alumni in Kingston. Queen's attracts top students in an array of fields, but most don't stick around after they get their degrees. Fewer than 3% of students and just over 5% of alumni surveyed said that they were "very satisfied" with employment prospects in Kingston. Almost 50% of alumni surveyed said they did not even consider Kingston when looking for work. The fact that both students and alumni don't see many employment prospects in Kingston does not mean that some wouldn't want to live and work here if they could. We know that when there are strong links between a university program and local employers (as with our School of Nursing and the local hospitals), our graduates apply for local jobs. Imagine if we were able to create more job opportunities to meet the professional interests and skills of the students we are educating and training. Imagine if local employers in a wide range of sectors had their pick of top graduates from which to recruit.

By the time they finish their studies at Queen's, more than 80% of students have volunteered in the community - teaching kids to read, delivering food to shelters, spending time with seniors. Imagine what that would mean for local programs and services if more of these outstanding young people stayed in Kingston and continued to contribute to the community, as well as to their professions. I ask you all to consider three first steps (one on its own won't be sufficient!):

  • Connect with the Queen's program, department or unit that aligns with your field.
  • Bring in a Queen's student in the next 12 months if you can - as an intern, in a co-op placement or plain hire them!
  • Come to the job fair that Queen's Career Services is organizing for February.
  • Come not only with information about your organization, but with opportunities that meet your hiring needs and perhaps - hopefully! - the needs of some of the incredibly talented undergraduate and graduate students who want to work in Kingston.

This is how we can start strengthening our talent economy to make Kingston a magnet for creative people to grow, prosper and enjoy a high quality of life. Please contact Jennifer Massey in Career Services to get started.

R & D and Innovation

I'd like now to talk a bit about some of the research and innovation underway at Queen's that is contributing to the local economy. Queen's is one of the most research-intensive universities in Canada. We just moved up in the recent Research Infosource ranking; in 2009, Queen's attracted $178.1 million in research funding. One of Queen's unique attributes is that we successfully balance research and teaching, while providing an unparalleled student experience. We remain among the top 5 medical-doctoral universities in Canada according to Macleans magazine. And we scored more "A" marks from students than any other large, medium or small university in Canada in last month's Globe and Mail University Report.

Queen's is increasingly expanding partnerships with local organizations, as well as with the city, St Lawrence College and RMC, to maximize the impact of discovery and innovation and position Kingston as a leader, nationally and internationally. Just last week, Queen's and RMC hosted 250 participants from across Canada at a forum on Military and Veteran Health research. The forum launched a national research agenda to support current and former military personnel and their families. Kingston is the perfect place for this initiative. Not only do we have Queen's, RMC, CFB Kingston, our hospitals and our history, but we have one of the highest veteran populations in Canada.

There is so much potential to create more successes through collaboration.

Last month, the federal government announced new funds for Queen's and St. Lawrence College, to help us work with small-and medium-sized enterprises. This funding can be used for applied research, engineering design, technology development, product testing, and certification. Queen's is actively looking to build on our research strengths, and partner with the local business community to put innovative ideas into practice in our region. Here are 2 examples:

  • Dr. Amir Fam in Civil Engineering is reinventing the way bridges are constructed and maintained, using a stronger, more durable replacement for steel reinforcement. Dr. Fam is working with Anchor Concrete, a local company to improve its competitiveness.
  • Dr. Pascale Champagne, also in Civil Engineering, is developing a process to transform waste biomass into valuable chemicals and biofuels.Utilities Kingston is partnering with Dr. Champagne in her work.

Our researchers - and those of you in business - know there is no guarantee that a great idea will work, that a great product will be a commercial success, or that the market will remain steady. Whether you run a chemistry lab or a construction company, there is always a risk of failure. But academics, like entrepreneurs, are driven to try. We have a much better chance of success through collaboration, and through sharing ideas and resources.


(l-r) Peter Kraus (Invista), Graeme Marshall (Novelis) and
Principal Daniel Woolf

Commercialization and Partnership

For the past 20 years, led by PARTEQ Innovations -- the country's most advanced university tech-transfer office -- Queen's has placed its discoveries in the marketplace with great success. The potential benefit for Kingston is when these leading-edge commercial products or services remain based here, but sometimes it is difficult to make this happen:

  • Venture capital companies want these spin-offs to move closer to their headquarters;
  • Appropriate land and buildings aren't readily available on the local market; and
  • The pool of management talent may be more concentrated elsewhere.

We are trying to change these dynamics. Innovation Park - originally a partnership between Queen's and the province - is now a hub of academic and industrial R &D in Kingston. The industry anchor and strategic research partner is Novelis. And there are more than 40 organizations working in concert to stimulate commercialization and economic development across South Eastern Ontario. Here are a few of the exciting organizations and activities taking place at Innovation Park:

  • ENDETEC began at Queen's in 2003 in the wake of the Walkerton water contamination tragedy. The company was founded to commercialize a novel method of automating water testing that's now being used globally.
  • GreenCentre Canada is a national commercialization facility, funded by the federal and provincial governments, that has experts working to develop clean, less energy-intensive alternatives to traditional chemical products and manufacturing processes. It has attracted internationally-trained talent to Canada and Kingston.
  • In partnership with Queen's, the Novelis Global Technology Centre is developing a breakthrough concept in air filtration that has the potential to significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases, like influenza.

I ask you to consider how your organizations and businesses could get involved with Queen's, St Lawrence, RMC, other businesses and industry. We need to get creative and compete together to bring more government funding and private investment to Kingston. Other cities, like London, Ontario and Waterloo, are already moving forward with broad-based partnerships. We need to do more of that here in Kingston. Queen's Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss and Innovation Park and Industry Partnerships Director Janice Mady would be pleased to talk with you and discuss any idea you have. This is the time for us all to think strategically about new ways to drive economic activity and innovation in our community.

The potential for transformative partnerships is not limited to science and technology. The City and Queen's are also working together to solidify Kingston's reputation as a cultural hub in Eastern Ontario.

Queen's is grateful for the City's financial support, along with funding from the federal and provincial governments and the generosity of private donors, for the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. Construction is set to begin next spring. The project steering committee now includes the City's cultural director Brian McCurdy. This will ensure a tighter integration among events and programming across all Kingston facilities. The City's new Cultural Plan identifies Queen's arts and other programs as potential engines of cultural growth. Presenting coordinated and complimentary programming in our arts and music venues is one key piece. This could generate new events and enhance cultural tourism in Kingston. If you have an idea to support this important sector of the local economy, let's build on it together. Gordon Smith, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science, is your first point of contact.

The Green Economy

Finally, Kingston envisages becoming Canada's most sustainable city. Queen's shares that vision. We are ranked third among Ontario universities for our sustainability activities on and off campus. With our older historic buildings, we certainly have some challenges, as we strive to meet the city's heritage requirements, while aligning with LEED standards and watching our budget. Our relationship with the City is key in achieving a reasonable balance that preserves the heritage aspects of our buildings and maximizes energy conservation and operational efficiency. There are many opportunities for enhanced partnerships between the university and the community that can help us all contribute to a healthier planet.

I'll take a few minutes to talk about one particular area - solar energy. Queen's is currently looking at adding solar panels on main and west campus and at our Biological Field Station, north of the city on Lake Opinicon - Researchers Joshua Pearce and Stephen Harrison are working with Associate V-P (Facilities) Ann Browne on that initiative. We are in great company. St. Lawrence College is implementing the largest solar photovoltaic rooftop installation at any post-secondary institution in Canada. I congratulate President and fellow alum Chris Whitaker for leading the way on this initiative.

  • SWITCH Kingston's network of businesses, research and educational institutions, professionals, volunteers, and students demonstrates that we are a community working together towards a common goal. SWITCH is based at Innovation Park and working to make the city the first community of its size to install 1,000 solar energy systems. If you aren't involved already, you can find out more at
  • Dr. Praveen Jain, with PhD student John Lam, in our Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has invented a new greener lightbulb. Dr. Jain has also invented a microinverter that improves the efficiency of solar electrical systems, even in snow or shade. The microinverter is being refined by his start-up, SPARQ Systems, with plans to have it on the market next year.
  • Queen's is also part of the New Energy Project that aims to position and market the KFL&A area as a "green" region.

By working together, we can market this region's opportunities to like-minded businesses and organizations and bolster the local and regional economy. We can also link up all parts of supply chains to stimulate economic and community development in target sectors. This week we've seen some good news in this regard.

Please note: At this event Dr. Michael Cunningham, Ontario Research Chair in Green Chemistry and Engineering gave a brief presentation on his research.

I hope that you will follow up with me, and share your ideas, questions and suggestions on how we can work together to develop our economy.

I want to thank our host, Michael Springer, and the Radisson Hotel Kingston Waterfront.

Thank you all very much for coming. I hope this inspires more collaborations and connections across our great community.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000