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Spotlight on Startups: 9 ways U of T supports startups

How the University of Toronto fosters entrepreneurship


Nailing down statistics about U of T's entrepreneurial efforts means entering into a perpetual game of catch-up, with the University's startup culture continuing to develop new supports for its faculty and students all the time.

This Spotlight on Startups series profiles the many entrepreneurial efforts growing from the hundreds of companies spun out from research and connections sparking at the University of Toronto:

U of T hosts more than 50 enterprise-fostering courses, programs, labs, clubs, contests and speaker series across its faculties, departments and campuses — and then there are all the innovations developing in informal settings. U of T ranks No. 1 in North America for number of startups launched. And its roster of spin-off companies driving innovation in Toronto and around the world continues to grow.

And so, though the number of new enterprises and accelerators remains on the climb, our friends at the University of Toronto Office of Research and Innovation offered up a few of their favourite U of T entrepreneurial catalysts in their publication, U of T Ignites Innovation.

Their suggestions became the base of the following nine key supports that U of T offers to its entrepreneurs. Why not round it out to a 'Top 10' list? Because then we wouldn't be leaving room for all the new ways of helping U of T startups that are just around the corner. 

U of T's students and faculty make U of T a global knowledge generator, ranked 21st in the world in the 2012 Times Higher Education rankings. Its nearly 7,000 faculty members are experts in hundreds of disciplines. And they are recognized for their expertise –  U of T wins more faculty awards and prizes than any other Canadian university. Sixty-eight per cent of U of T inventions include a student or post-doc as a co-inventor. Students are top executives of many U of T start-up companies. (Read more in U of T Ignites Innovation)
The University of Toronto Early Stage Technology (UTEST) program is a joint initiative of the University of Toronto, The Connaught Fund and MaRS Innovation to provide early stage software companies with start-up funding, work space, mentoring and business strategy support. UTEST enables passionate U of T entrepreneurs to transform an idea to a product at a stage which is typically too early for traditional technology incubators. (Read more about UTEST)
This hands-on workshop series is aimed at science and engineering students who want to turn their scientific discoveries into products, services and companies. In this series, The Impact Centre offers mentorship in intellectual property strategy, product development, finance, human resources, business plans and presentation skills. Techno workshops have resulted in the formation of more than 30 start-up companies. (Read more about Techno)
The IPO is U of T’s hub for industry partnerships, commercialization and entrepreneurship. The goal: to get new technology out into the world and to enable university-industry partnerships. The IPO connects government and business with U of T researchers. From 2007 to 2011, our inventors disclosed 774 inventions. In the same period, we filed 253 patent applications, signed 166 licenses and formed 63 start-ups. (Read more about the IPO)
Banting and Best supports entrepreneurs turning research discoveries into innovative products and companies. In turn, these companies create skilled jobs for local students and graduates of the University of Toronto. In addition to lab and office space for start-up companies, Banting and Best’s centres like TechnoLabs and the Innovations & Partnerships Office provide aspiring entrepreneurs with education, mentorship and resources to support their company. The centre is named for Frederick Banting and Charles Best, discoverers of one of Canada’s greatest innovations – insulin. (Read more about the Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship)
U of T offers entrepreneurship-fostering courses across faculties, departments and divisions. Students can learn about innovation in a classroom setting whether they're enrolled in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, the Faculty of Arts and Science or elsewhere. One flagship course, IMC200, was developed by The Impact Centre to help students examine the path from discovery to market and understand important concepts including intellectual property, product development, company structure and decision making, marketing and sales. 
Networking spaces such as The Hub at UTSC and the Digital Enterprise Management Society at UTM offer students opportunities to share ideas and make connections with other eager entrepreneurs. (Read more about The Hub at UTSC or about the Digital Enterprise Management Society at UTM)
The culture of entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto infuses all three campuses with startup spirit. For those students not enrolled in a program that directly connects them with entrepreneurship, there are overarching services such as the new Rapid Launch program offered by the U of T Career Centre and open to students and recent grads from all disciplines. (Read more about Rapid Launch)
The AppStar competition at UTSC and Young Entrepreneurs Challenge at UTM are just a few of the many opportunities for U of T entrepreneurs to put their concepts to the test. A student team from Rotman won the inaugural MBA World Trophy for Cyclica Inc., a life sciences technology company leveraging big data to develop new medicines more cheaply.  (Read more about AppStar, the Young Entrepreneurs Challenge or the MBA World Trophy)

10. Wait and see...

Brianna Goldberg is a writer with U of T News.

Visit the University of Toronto entrepreneurship site to learn more about U of T's enterprise-fostering courses, labs, programs and more.