A home for innovation
January 15, 2018
When helping student entrepreneurs get their start, one common piece of advice is to start small and lean. Once you have proven the model for your new business, then you can take on liabilities like leasing your own office space.
Innovation leaders at Queen’s have practiced what they preached, and are now getting ready to reap the rewards when the Innovation and Wellness Centre (IWC) opens its doors next fall.
“The IWC will bring our innovation resources on campus out of the bootstrapping phase,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The facility will provide a focal point for innovation and entrepreneurship activities at Queen’s, and forge important cross-campus connections across our programs.”
Located within the IWC, the Innovation Hub will unite some existing resources and programs and add a few new ones. It will include an event space, touch down tables for easy collaboration, and a maker space – a well-equipped work space where student entrepreneurs can create, experiment, and refine their ideas. Students helped shape the final design of the Hub.
“We work with 2,000 students a year, and I expect that number will double in the next couple of years,” says Greg Bavington (Sc’85), Executive Director, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). “The Innovation Hub will play a key role in supporting existing demand and future growth for innovation on campus.”
Once it opens, the DDQIC is planning to expand its programming, with a focus on social enterprise – creating more organizations with a mission to both make money and do social good.
Most importantly, the IWC will give the DDQIC the one thing they have been lacking: common space.
“We toured other schools when making decisions on what needed to be in our Innovation Hub, and we found that Queen’s did a pretty good job at supporting innovation on campus,” says Mr. Bavington. “The final box we had to tick was to gather it all under one roof, allowing students to scale their business in a straightforward way without leaving campus.”
The belief is that having everything located side-by-side will not only boost collaboration, it will also increase the visibility of innovation resources and programs. For example, students led 13 conferences and events linked to innovation this year and it was a challenge for each group to find space.
“Locating the Innovation Hub within a multi-function building like the IWC is a strategic choice – one which is meant to show that everyone is welcome,” he says. “It can take many different people and different skillsets to make a successful business. We’re hoping to bend and weld the academic disciplines to get the sparks flying.”
The Innovation Hub will not merely connect students to resources on campus – it is expected to build the links between the campus, Innovation Park, and the community. While the Hub will focus on current students, Innovation Park offers a “long runway” as students graduate and look to grow their businesses. Likewise, the Hub will complement what Innovation Park does in supporting community entrepreneurs in southeastern Ontario.
The creation of the IWC was made possible through $55 million in philanthropic support, including $40 million to revitalize the facility. In addition, the federal and Ontario governments contributed a combined total of nearly $22 million to this facility.
To learn more about the Innovation and Wellness Centre, visit queensu.ca/connect/innovationandwellness.