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Institute for Sustainable Finance launched

  • Executive Director Sean Cleary addresses the crowd during the official launch of the Institute for Sustainable Finance (ISF).
    Executive Director Sean Cleary addresses the crowd during the official launch of the Institute for Sustainable Finance (ISF).
  • ISF board member Pamela Steer talks to event keynote speaker and fellow board member Andy Chisholm (Com'81).
    ISF board member Pamela Steer talks to event keynote speaker and fellow board member Andy Chisholm (Com'81).
  • Smith Master of Finance alumni Emiko Savic and Ayo Olatunji talk with Smith professor and ISF Research Director Ryan Riordan.
    Smith Master of Finance alumni Emiko Savic and Ayo Olatunji talk with Smith professor and ISF Research Director Ryan Riordan.
  • ISF Research Director and Smith Professor Ryan Riordan reveals his 'green' side at the ISF launch event.
    ISF Research Director and Smith Professor Ryan Riordan reveals his 'green' side at the ISF launch event.
  • Guests take part in networking at the launch of the Institute for Sustainable Finance.
    Guests take part in networking at the launch of the Institute for Sustainable Finance.

Marking its official launch on Tuesday, the Institute for Sustainable Finance announced the establishment of the Canadian Sustainable Finance Network (CSFN), an independent and diverse alliance of academics, researchers and educators who will address the most pressing questions of this field, and our time.  

Climate-proofing Canada’s economy’
Housed at Smith School of Business, the Institute for Sustainable Finance is the first of its kind in Canada. With the official launch of institute on Tuesday, Queen’s Chancellor Jim Leech and ISF Executive Director Sean Cleary had their opinion piece ‘Climate-proofing Canada’s economy’ published in the Globe and Mail.

By developing the CSFN the Institute for Sustainable Finance is building upon its mandate to align mainstream financial markets with Canada’s transition to a prosperous sustainable economy.

“The Institute for Sustainable Finance aims to create the most credible and robust body of sustainable finance knowledge in the country,” says institute executive director, Sean Cleary, BMO Professor of Finance and Founding Director of the Master of Finance program at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. “Establishing the CSFN as a critical resource for Canadian leaders is one way we can help guide the massive transition to a sustainable economy.”

The 44 members from 16 universities of the CSFN, which include Queen’s University, University of Calgary, Dalhousie University, Concordia University, University of Victoria, and University of Manitoba, will serve as an engine and collaboration platform for academia, industry and government to move sustainable finance forward in Canada. Its initiatives include expanding research partnerships and joint funding opportunities, creating a repository of education resources and growing program offerings, and collaborating with like-minded organizations such as the Global Research Alliance for Sustainable Finance and Investments (GRASFI). 

“Climate change is becoming a mainstream policy issue, and increasingly understood to have potentially serious financial consequences as well as being the source of significant opportunity. As a result, it is becoming an increasing focus for the global financial system, given the multi-faceted role finance plays in allocating capital and managing risk within key sectors of the economy,” says Andy Chisholm, a member of the institute’s advisory board and a member of the Canadian Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance. 

“Canada needs to keep up, and where appropriate, take a leadership role if we are to stay globally competitive,” he adds. “The longer we delay the more risk we take on and the more opportunity we forego or cede to others in a low-carbon transition. Universities have an important role to play and will be most effective in this space if they are encouraged to build off of and leverage each other’s strengths and advances. That is why this collaborative cross-country network is critical.” 

In addition to launching the CSFN, the Institute for Sustainable Finance has undertaken education initiatives to foster a deeper base of knowledge and expertise in Canada. In addition to the development of traditional academic courses, the institute and Queen’s Executive Education are launching programs for business professionals. The first program on Sustainable Investing will run April 15-17, 2020 in Toronto with more to follow. These efforts align with the Institute’s overall goal to significantly boost Canada’s capacity – in both the long and the short-term – to implement sustainable finance approaches that will enable the country to thrive through a low-carbon transition. 

“Working collaboratively on sustainable finance solutions, our world-class Canadian talent will help shape the financial system Canada’s future needs,” says Dr. Cleary. 

The Institute for Sustainable Finance is based at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University and is supported by the Ivey Foundation, the McConnell Foundation and the McCall MacBain Foundation. 

For a full list of Canadian Sustainable Finance Network members and to learn more about the Institute for Sustainable Finance, visit: isfcanada.org

Brenda Brouwer appointed Interim Dean of Smith School at Queen’s

Queen’s University is appointing Brenda Brouwer as the Interim Dean of Smith School of Business, effective Nov. 18, 2019.  

Brenda Brouwer

Dr. Brouwer recently completed a secondment with the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence as Head, Academic Partnerships. In this role she developed and led the talent development initiative cultivating relationships between the academy and industry to support a talent pipeline of master’s graduates with the skills, competencies and knowledge that organizations at the forefront of AI in Canada seek. Her time at Vector illustrated the importance of building networks between academies and organizations to promote knowledge and talent mobilization.

Prior to her secondment, Dr. Brouwer was the Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Queen’s for eight years, preceded by five years as the Associate Dean in the School of Graduate Studies. During her tenure, she provided academic and administrative leadership which saw the expansion and development of graduate credentials including professional and applied advanced degrees, the development of resources that support academic excellence, and student well-being. She also led the introduction of innovative and professional programming to meet the evolving needs of students entering an increasingly diverse labour market. As president of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies from 2015-2017, Dr. Brouwer also played a key role in providing national leadership in graduate education.

Dr. Brouwer joined Queen’s after completing a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. She holds a B.Sc. in Kinesiology (University of Waterloo) and an M.Sc in Biomechanics (McGill University). She is a professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy with cross appointments to the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies and the Centre for Neuroscience. Dr. Brouwer maintains a successful research program that focuses on quantifying the biomechanical, neuromuscular and metabolic demands of mobility in healthy aging and stroke.

Dr. Brouwer has served on numerous Senate committees, Council of Ontario Universities’ committees and working groups including the Council on Quality Assurance and the Highly Skilled Workforce Steering Committee. She has also been a member of the U.S. Council of Graduate Studies Advisor group for completion in STEM master’s programs.

“Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane and I extend our thanks to Dr. Brouwer for providing leadership to Smith during this period of transition,” says Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris. “A special thanks also goes to Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), for her support and guidance as Interim Dean of Smith School of Business during the past month.”

Dr. Brouwer is replacing David Saunders who is returning to his role as a faculty member at Smith and is enjoying a well-earned administrative leave (sabbatical) after 16 years as dean.

“Dr. Saunders led the school through tremendous growth including significantly expanding the portfolio of education programs to serve the evolving needs of business, and fostering areas of research and specialized expertise such as analytics and artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship and innovation, social impact and sustainability, leadership and teams, and more,” says Provost Harris. “Under his leadership, Smith established more than 100 strategic international partners and strengthened its reputation as one of the world’s pre-eminent business schools. I would like to thank Dr. Saunders for his significant contributions to Queen’s while heading up the Smith School.”

Smith School of Business at Queen’s is renowned for its excellence, innovation and leadership in business education. From establishing the first undergraduate business degree a century ago to creating groundbreaking programs and courses in emerging areas including artificial intelligence, fintech, analytics, cultural diversity, entrepreneurship, team dynamics, social impact and more, Smith is at the forefront of preparing students for the business marketplace. In addition to its rich tradition of academic and teaching excellence, Smith is known for delivering an outstanding learning and development experience. 

Smith Master of International Business first for North America in Financial Times ranking

The Financial Times has released the FT 2019 Masters in Management ranking, with Smith School of Business ranking first in North America and top 50 overall. 

The Smith Master of International Business (MIB) placed 48th out of 100 ranked programs from across the globe. The ranking saw Smith move up five spots over its 2018 ranking.  

The FT 2019 Masters in Management ranking is based on a wide range of criteria, including program design, value for money, student career progress, diversity of both students and faculty, and international experience and reach. 

Smith MIB ranked top 10 for international mobility, highlighting its commitment to providing students with a truly global experience during the program and after graduation.   

“This is a great tribute to the quality of our Master of International Business program,” Elspeth Murray, Associate Dean MBA and Masters Programs, says. “Our focus on providing cutting-edge business education, strong personal skills development, and great career outcomes carries across all our Master of Management programs at Smith.”

View the full FT 2019 Masters in Management ranking here.

Search begins for Interim Dean, Smith School of Business

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane announced on Tuesday, Oct. 15 the appointment of Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), as Interim Dean of Smith School of Business.

The appointment follows the resignation of David Saunders, who had served as dean for more than 16 years. Dr. Saunders will now begin an administrative leave and will return to his faculty position in 2023. 

Dr. Shearer, a Smith faculty member, will hold the position until a more permanent Interim Dean is appointed, an announcement that Principal Deane expects to make within the next month. 

International faculty and staff supports

The Human Rights & Equity Office is holding discussion sessions about developing and strengthening supports for employees coming to Queen's from abroad.

Staff and faculty participating in the first brainstorm meeting
Queen's faculty and staff participating in a brainstorming session about supports for international employees.

The Human Rights & Equity Office (HREO) recently invited international staff and faculty to engage in an initial conversation about what potential supports or groups could be created or strengthened to assist those moving from abroad for employment at Queen’s University.

A group of international faculty and staff gathered on Sept. 30 for a brainstorming session facilitated by Queen's Human Rights Advisor Nilani Loganathan, who guided the group in an exercise to begin to identify gaps in services and programs, and suggest ways that could better support international employees.

“I’m very pleased with the ideas brought forth by those who attended our first session,” says Loganathan. “We touched on a number of areas, including issues concerning relocating to Kingston, settling in at Queen’s, employment and education supports for families, and much more. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and collecting more feedback that will best inform our path forward.”

Employees who identify as international staff and faculty will have additional opportunities to provide their input. The next session is to take place on Friday, Nov. 15 in Mackintosh-Corry Hall, B176 from 12pm – 1pm. Please email hrights@queensu.ca to confirm your attendance.

This is your brain on advertising

Queen’s neuroscience professor Susan Boehnke explains what’s possible in the emerging field of neuromarketing.

[Advertising in Times Square]
Queen's Executive Education at Smith School of Business has launched the Essentials of Neuroscience for Marketers program. The two-day session, Jan. 16  and 17, 2020 in Toronto, gives marketing leaders a practical understanding of neuromarketing and how to use it in their businesses. (Photo: Joshua Earle / Unsplash

NOTE: This article has been updated as the two-day session will now be held Jan. 16  and 17, 2020, instead of Oct. 3 and 4.

Everyone in advertising knows about John Wanamaker. The 19th century American department store magnate famously declared: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.” If only neuromarketing were around in Wanamaker’s day, his ad buys might not have been as wasteful.

Neuromarketing uses eye tracking and other brain science technology to better understand what consumers like and how they buy. But it’s still relatively new, and misconceptions about its capabilities abound.

To help separate science from fiction, Queen’s Executive Education at Smith School of Business has launched the Essentials of Neuroscience for Marketers program. The two-day session, Jan. 16  and 17, 2020 in Toronto, gives marketing leaders a practical understanding of neuromarketing and how to use it in their businesses. The program’s lead instructor, Susan Boehnke, assistant professor and neuroscientist at Queen’s Centre for Neuroscience Studies, recently discussed the promise of neuromarketing – what it can do, what it can’t, and what to know before you buy in.

Question: Do you sense a growing interest among marketers in using neuroscience?

Susan Boehnke: I would say so, yes. I just compiled a list of most of the active neuromarketing companies out there for our Executive Education program, which is one of the takeaways attendees are going to have from the course. Right now, it’s a bit of a Wild West in terms of companies offering these services. You have some solid companies that have emerged, mostly out of academic labs. They tend to have a degree of credibility. But you also have a lot of entrepreneurs just opening up shop, buying off-the-shelf technology, and making claims about what they can measure.

Q: Why the fascination with neuromarketing?

SB: For a long time, companies determined whether people liked their advertising or packaging by asking them in a focus group or with a survey. These are still useful methods. You do need to ask people what they think. The problem is that people can’t always articulate why it is they feel a certain way, why it is they behave certain ways and why they make certain decisions. The hope when people started to apply neuroscience technologies to marketing was that you could get an objective measure of those things that people can't articulate. What people say in focus groups is clouded by cultural things or simply wanting to give the answer they think the experimenter wants to hear.

Q: What neuroscience technologies are being used in marketing?

SB: Eye tracking is one. There’s also biometrics – like galvanic skin response and heart rate. If you want to measure the brain more directly, the two methods are: electroencephalography, or EEG, where you have electrodes over the head to record the collective yelling of a whole lot of neurons together; and functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. This is brain scanning where you can actually look at detailed change in blood flow throughout the brain. Change in blood flow is used as a proxy for brain activity.

Q: What are some of the upsides and downsides of these methods?

SB: EEG has deep roots in academic neuroscience and goes back decades. The good thing about EEG is that you get a continuous signal. You can know second by second how these signals are changing as people are watching, say, a video ad. The problem with EEG is that you don't know exactly where the signals are coming from in the brain. fMRI does provide really good spatial localization. You can say we saw more activity in certain areas of the brain, for example the ventromedial prefrontal cortex or the hippocampus, in response to one ad compared to another. Certain areas are more directly involved in decision-making processes, others in memory or in regulating our emotions. But you can't exactly say when those signals occurred on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis.

Q: What about eye tracking?

SB: If you’re an ad agency, why wouldn’t you want to see where people are looking at your ads? One issue, though, is that what people are looking at doesn’t necessarily reflect where they are attending. As an example, think of being at a cocktail party. You’re looking at the person you are having a conversation with but your attention has drifted to the back of the room where your ex-girlfriend is talking to another guy. So you’re looking at the person in front of you but that doesn’t mean you’re processing anything that person says because your attention has drifted. There is some cutting-edge gaze modelling happening in academia using big datasets that may help sort this out in the future.

Q: How might neuroscience be used in advertising?

SB: Let’s say you have a print ad and you’re going to use eye tracking to see where people are looking. You may find that people aren’t actually paying a lot of attention to a certain part of the ad that, creatively, you are trying to highlight. It looks like people are being attracted to, let’s say, a contrast line in the visual display of the ad and therefore not looking at the product. So then you go back to creative and change that contrast line a bit, and that might allow people to naturally go up to where you want them to look. You can also study a person’s brain signals with EEG and say, OK, when they are looking at this particular spot on the ad, what are their brain signals indicating about their level of attention or engagement?  And what does that mean?

Q: What can’t neuroscience do for marketers?

SB: It can't read minds. You can’t actually read people’s thoughts. I think sometimes there’s a belief that neuroscience can do more than it can do. I can't overstate the limitations of these technologies. But you can get signals that have been shown to be predictive of future buying behaviour, and that's why I think people are buying into neuromarketing.

Q: So the capabilities go beyond just telling us whether or not consumers like a particular ad?

SB: Neuroscience, to some degree, will give you insights into what engages people, but no one technology on its own is going to give you a simple, reliable explanation. The key, however, is in the design of the experiment – having an expert who can actually properly design an experiment that will give you meaningful insights. It is about choosing the right groups to compare and looking at signals from a group of people that is sufficient to provide you with some reliable and valid inferences. Take the example we just discussed about using eye tracking of a print ad. Neuroscientists have to do some interpreting to get the results, which is why it’s critical to have a neuroscientist with some expertise in vision and visual biases to interpret what’s going on.

Q: Can you point to any studies that have shown neuromarketing's effectiveness?

SB: I’ll give you an example of a study that I took my students through last year in my Neuromarketing class at Queen’s. It was done by neuroscientists at a university in Germany. They were interested in seeing if you could use signals from fMRI to predict buying behaviour for Duplo chocolate, which is one of those impulse buys sold at every checkout of every grocery store in Germany. They put women in an MRI and presented them with different merchandising displays for Duplo and asked the women whether they liked them and would buy this chocolate.

Then they test marketed these different merchandising displays all over Germany and got the Duplo buying data from each of these stores. And they were able to show that they could come up with an algorithm of the different brain signals that were involved in the reward and decision-making pathways – and that this actually predicted which merchandising displays would be most effective. So the fMRI signals were better at forecasting sales than the women’s verbal answers.      

Q: What are the ethical considerations for marketers using neuroscience?

SB: There are some perils but part of them I think are unfounded. They are under the assumption that we can actually manipulate people's minds. What neuromarketing can do is basically make ads that were created by advertising creative people maybe slightly better, or decide which ads are better. It’s just another tool for advertisers. Now, that being said, there are things to consider such as vulnerable populations. So imagine people with pathological gambling addiction or shopping addiction. If you’re specifically trying to target the things that are going to make these people even more vulnerable, that's a problem. But I question whether the technology is actually able to do that. . . yet.

Another issue that will need to be considered is privacy of the data. Who owns the neural data that neuromarketing companies record from subjects? A great example relevant in fMRI work is the presence of pre-existing conditions, such as a brain tumour. What if this was shared with insurance companies? What if the company did not disclose this incidental finding to the subject? What if they did it inappropriately? This is not too much of a problem now since the vast majority of fMRI studies are done in partnership with academic institutions, where there is ethical oversight. However, these kinds of issues should be covered by comprehensive regulation ahead of neurotech development that would make neuroimaging devices more accessible to industry.

Q: What are some issues marketers should consider before they hire the services of a neuromarketing firm?

SB: I worry that some companies will buy an off-the-shelf EEG system and software, and the company selling that system says, ‘Oh, here’s a canned signal, and we’re calling that signal engagement.’ And there are those companies out there. That worries me because in neuroscience good experimental design and interpretation is key. So I think the number one thing people have to look for when they source a company is, Do they have real neuroscientists who can think through these issues? You want to be assured the company’s work is standing on the shoulders of all that basic research that was done in academic labs.

If I was a marketer hiring a neuromarketing firm, I would say, ‘Let me be the first subject in the study so I see exactly what you’re doing.’ Obviously they wouldn’t count the results but I would definitely want to be subject number one so I can vet their methods.

Learn more about neuroscience and neuromarketing at Queen’s Executive Education’s Essentials of Neuroscience for Marketers, Jan. 16  and 17, 2020 in Toronto.

This article was originally published by Smith Business Insight.

Celebrating a century of commerce

Digital storytelling campaign showcases the breadth and depth of the program’s 100-year legacy

Commerce 100
Smith School of Business at Queen’s University is celebrating a century of innovation with the arrival of Com'23, the 100th commerce class. (Photo by Greg Black) 

Smith School of Business at Queen’s University is celebrating a century of innovation with the arrival of the 100th commerce class (Com’23) at Goodes Hall.

Queen’s University launched the first undergraduate business degree in Canada in 1919 and as the program grew in popularity, the business school that is now Smith was established.

To mark the milestone, a digital storytelling campaign has been launched to showcase the breadth and depth of the program’s 100-year legacy. A new interactive website – smithqueens.com/100 – invites the community to explore some of the many highlights, profiles, memories, and stories from the last 100 years. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are invited to share their experiences and memories of commerce via an online form on the site. 

“I have had the pleasure of meeting alumni from many decades of the Commerce program – some as far back as the 1930s – and the one thing that has remained constant over the past 100 years is the quality of the Queen’s experience,” says David Saunders, Dean, Smith School of Business. “This outstanding experience not only fosters talented students, but creates alumni who remain engaged with the program long after they have graduated.”

The 100th commerce class reflects the growth and diversity of the business world. There are 495 students in the Class of 2023, 52 per cent are women. They come not just from all over Canada but from around the world, too. Seventeen per cent of the 100th commerce class is international, with citizenship from countries such as Bulgaria, Ireland, India, Peru, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria and China.

This, of course, was all far off in 1919. The first graduating class of 1921 comprised just two students. The next year seven students graduated, including the first woman to earn an undergraduate business degree, Beatrice Eakins. The curriculum focused heavily on economics and math in the early days and over the years, academics have remained central to the student experience.

Smith Commerce is renowned for its excellence and leadership in business education, having pioneered team-based and experiential learning. Students attain a deep understanding of business strategies and concepts, while at the same time fostering personal capacity in leadership, teamwork, cultural intelligence, resilience, communication, and presentation.

A number of events to celebrate the 100th anniversary are being planned and will be announced soon.

Discover the rich history and legacy of the Commerce program, and share your memories, at smithqueens.com/100.

How non-profits can use business as a force for good

THE CONVERSATION: New research suggests that non-profits tempted by the social enterprise model do not necessarily lose sight of their social mission in favour of profits. In fact, the opposite is true.

Do social enterprises come to view profit as more important than their original mission? New research suggests they don’t, and the cause remains a key component of their success. (Kat Yukawa/Unsplash)

Can a non-profit organization pursue both social gains and business revenue? Or is it as futile as mixing water and oil and hoping that the oil — commercial interests — won’t rise to the top?

Think about the YMCA of Canada. The Y is one of Canada’s oldest and largest charities, serving more than 2.25 million people each year from 1,700 program locations.

It offers a wide range of social programs, from youth leadership development and immigrant services to skills development workshops. It also operates what is essentially a health club business that is somewhat more distantly tied to its mission, yet provides a critical source of revenue. The Y seems to be able to carry out its model of social enterprise just fine.

But for every YMCA, there are many more non-profits committed to advancing a social cause that struggle with finding revenue sources to keep themselves afloat. It’s no surprise; these two approaches often require very different mindsets, and trying to pursue both requires a cultural shift for traditional non-profit organizations.

Traditionally, non-profit organizations that wanted to increase their revenues tended to create commercial activities that were unrelated to their core social activities. Think about the annual cupcake sale organized by your local soup kitchen, or the café created within your local history museum. Those initiatives generate a welcome surplus of revenues, but they remain somewhat unconnected to the core social mission of the organization.

Pursuing profit where it doesn’t belong?

Many say the concept of social enterprise represents the incursion of neoliberal thinking — putting the market above all else — into a sphere where it doesn’t belong.

Some scholars have predicted that ultimately, the “enterprise” would come to dominate the “social” as the pursuit of funds becomes the goal rather than the connection to a social purpose.

But are non-profits really selling their souls to the market? Maybe not. This argument overlooks the ways in which organizations and their leaders assimilate and adapt new ideas.

Our research suggests that non-profits tempted by the social enterprise model do not necessarily lose sight of their social mission. In fact, we observed the opposite trend: non-profit organizations interested in developing commercial activities learned, over time, how to integrate them more deeply with their social goals.

We came to this conclusion after analyzing 14 years of grant applications submitted to Enterprising NonProfits, then a leading Canadian funder that has since shut down, by non-profit organizations that sought to commercialize some of their services to create earned revenue.

With this long-term perspective, we could identify how non-profits in our study described their operating models and whether those models changed over time as the concept of social enterprise emerged and became more prevalent in society at large.

What we found is that the power of commerce did not win out as the years went by.

Research shows that profits did not win out over the causes of social enterprises. (Photo by Perry Grone/Unsplash)

Yes, in the early 2000s, when the concept of social enterprise was still new, many non-profits tended to emphasize the revenue-generation aspect of their new venture over the social mission, and to keep the two rather disconnected.

This was particularly true among non-profits in the social welfare and community benefit space. Perhaps these non-profits wanted to differentiate themselves from others in the field or just could not envision how to realize their social mission while developing commercial activities.

But over time, this emphasis on pure revenue-generation diminished. In the education and health fields, it never even dominated in the first place.

Enhanced their social missions

Instead, hybrid models sprang up that integrated commercial and social objectives in multiple ways. Some non-profits offered specialized products or services to their target beneficiaries and generated revenue that way. Others provided employment opportunities to their target disadvantaged populations and thus enhanced their social mission.

In short, non-profits became better at managing the tensions inherent in mixing revenue generation with social mission, and more amenable to exploring different options for doing so.

They learned what worked and didn’t work from their peers, as successful examples of hybrid social enterprises that integrated a social mission into a commercial business project became more visible in the environment.

In the process, non-profit organizations realized that injecting some earned revenue into their activities could not only provide some welcome relief to their bottom line, but also had the potential to enhance and deepen their social mission.


Jean-Baptiste Litrico is Associate Professor of Strategy and Organization at Smith School of Business, Queen's University, and Marya Besharov, is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Cornell University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Getting to know the Class of 2023

This group of incoming students come from across Canada and around the world.

[Queen's students take part in  orientation]
Incoming first-year students share a laugh during the Queen's Welcomes U event on Saturday, Aug. 31. (Photo by Bernard Clark / Queen's University)

The undergraduate Class of 2023 is now on campus, and they are already adding vibrancy and diversity to Queen’s. In this new class, there are more than 4,600 students from all 10 provinces and three territories in Canada as well as students from 49 countries around the world. Queen’s and Kingston continue to be a destination of choice for international students who this year will make up more than 14% of incoming undergraduates.

The overall average of the incoming class is 89.5 per cent and students are entering a wide range of programs; two-thirds are in the Faculty of Arts and Science; 17 per cent are in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; 10 per cent of students are in the Smith School of Business and five per cent in the Faculty of Health Sciences, which is welcoming its first on-campus cohort to the Bachelor of Health Sciences program.

Additionally, more than 100 Arts and Science students will be spending their first year at the Bader International Study Centre in East Sussex, England. This group will be joining their classmates in Kingston next September to complete the remainder of their studies.

Start-ups awarded seed funding in Kingston’s biggest pitch competition

Seven teams win big in annual Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre's summer pitch competition.

  • Backr, the team named by judges to take home the grand prize of $30,000, delivering their winning pitch.
    Backr, the team named by judges to take home the grand prize of $30,000, deliver their winning pitch.
  • Nina Tangri, Member of Provincial Parliament and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade (Economic Development), sharing remarks during the opening of the competition.
    Nina Tangri, Member of Provincial Parliament and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade (Economic Development), shares remarks during the opening of the competition.
  • Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson makes opening remarks at the 2019 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.
    Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson makes opening remarks at the 2019 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.
  • Fourteen teams pitched their ventures to a panel of judges over the course of the competition.
    Fourteen teams pitched their ventures to a panel of judges over the course of the competition at Mitchell Hall.
  • Lifted took home $10,000 after winning over the audience with their pitch. They were voted crowd favourite and were recognized with the Wisdom of the Market Award.
    Lifted took home $10,000 after winning over the audience with their pitch. They were voted crowd favourite and were recognized with the Wisdom of the Market Award.
  • Following each pitch, the panel of judges asked questions of the competitors to further explore each team's proposal.
    Following each pitch, the panel of judges asked questions of the competitors to further explore each team's proposal.
  • Cromble was among the seven winning teams that competed in front of the large audience at Mitchell Hall, the new facility that houses the Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre.
    Cromble was among the seven winning teams that competed in front of the large audience at Mitchell Hall, the new facility that houses the Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre.

After weeks of preparation, teams of emerging entrepreneurs stood before a panel of esteemed judges at the 2019 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition and made their case as to why their start-up businesses are ready to take the next big step.

Fourteen teams, all but one of which was comprised of students from Queen’s University, took part in the competition, each vying for a piece of $100,000 of total seed funding available to be won. The annual contest is the largest of its kind in Kingston, and past Queen’s winners have included ClimaCube (2018) and SpectraPlasmonics – who have gone on to compete internationally.

“I want to congratulate this year’s teams on their outstanding pitches, and commend their determination and drive to become Kingston’s next generation of innovators,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). “We know that access to seed capital is so important for fledgling companies, and that a vote of confidence from our judging panel can go a long way toward growing opportunities. We continue to be excited and proud to host this thrilling competition every summer.”

Teams had only a few minutes to make their business’ case for support, after which the judges asked a series of questions of each group about anything from product development to corporate strategy and financing. Sitting on the judging panel this year were Raj Melville, Executive Director of the Deshpande Foundation; Benjamin Barrows, Founder and CEO of technology and data firm Cabot 7; Allison Turner, co-founder and Director of Product Development at PnuVax; David Lloyd, CEO of Post Beyond; and Shelby Yee, CEO of RockMass Technologies, the grand-prize winning company for the 2016 Summer Pitch Competition.

“The Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition has made tremendous progress over the years both in the quality and breadth of solutions pitched as well as the general interest from a worldwide audience, thanks in large part to the efforts of the DDQIC Staff,” says Melville. “The teams have worked really hard and it showed in the polished presentations that highlighted key business opportunities and issues facing them. We congratulate the teams and look forward to seeing them succeed and grow.”

Following the judges’ deliberations, seven teams walked away with seed funding, with Backr securing the largest sum — $30,000 — to support their online tool to help online content creators better engage their fans.

“We are thankful to the DDQIC for supporting entrepreneurship in the Queen's and Kingston community. It was our privilege to pitch alongside so many terrific teams,” says Duncan Cameron-Steinke, on behalf of the Backr team. “For our company, we can now apply the funds towards accelerating our product development and arrive sooner to market. This is just the beginning for us and we are thankful to the judges who believed in our team and in our vision.”

Cameron-Steinke, a recent graduate of engineering physics, is one of 45 Queen’s students who competed on teams this year, from across multiple disciplines, including Business, Engineering and Applied Science, Arts and Science, and Graduate Studies. Other competitors included entrepreneurs from the Kingston region and from the Royal Military College of Canada.

The competition was held in the atrium of Queen’s University’s recently-opened Mitchell Hall — the new home of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre. Queen’s Interim Provost and Vice-Principal Tom Harris, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson and MPP Nina Tangri, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade (Economic Development), delivered remarks to open the day’s events.

“Businesses are the backbone of Ontario’s economy,” says MPP Tangri to the competing teams in her opening remarks. “All of you have come here today with innovation, and whether your venture aims to impact your local community, address social issues, support other business and people, or make advancements in science and technology, you should all be proud of the work you have done to be here today.”

To learn more about the competition, visit the 2019 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition website.

2019 DDQIC Summer Pitch Competition Results:

Backr - $30,000
Backr created a tool that promotes fan engagement while creating revenue for online creators. The group works alongside creators' existing social platforms and reward fans for every act of engagement, motivating them to do more.

HeroHub - $15,000
HeroHub is an online platform that creates a greater social impact by connecting local charities and non-profits to individuals or businesses seeking volunteer opportunities, charity events, and to donate new or gently-used items.

Cromble - $15,000
Cromble works to divert 100 per cent of wasted spent grain — a byproduct of beer brewing — and use it in creating a wide range of products, including health foods.

Red Gold of Afghanistan - $10,000
This team is helping female farmers in Afghanistan achieve financial independence by building their capacity in saffron cultivation and connecting them to global markets.

Research Stream - $5,000
Research Stream is a digital platform that connects researchers and participants for human subject research.

Big Spoon Lil’ Spoon (BSLS) - $5,000
BSLS is a social venture that provides healthy living programs and life skills workshops to people with disabilities and their siblings. BSLS’s goal is to help teach participants of all ages learn to be self-sufficient and lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Lifted - $10,000 (Wisdom of the Market Award)
This team, selected as a winner by audience vote, created a bra company that strives to redesign the lingerie industry to be more diverse and inclusive.


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