Young: Centre of excellence a boost for new businesses

There have been dramatic changes in the way the entrepreneurial spirit has been promoted over the past several years in North America.

I feel, once again, professorial of sorts this week as I continue to become increasingly aware of the dramatic changes to promote the entrepreneurial spirit that have occurred over the past several years in North America.

Six to seven years ago in Canada, one would hardly see evidence of entrepreneurship centres, programs and activities.

But I am astounded with the progressive change that has taken place across Canada f with academic programs, faculty positions and remarkable entrepreneurship centres of excellence in many of our universities and colleges.

The University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon, is but one that resonates with me that has leapfrogged into a multi-disciplined, cross-campus centre of excellence that came about from faculty and corporate world leadership in that province.

I was there before I moved to the Okanagan and was able to experience, participate and enjoy its birth.

In light of the new dialogue that is taking place with UBCO, Okanagan College, the candles of entrepreneurial inspiration our entrepreneurship society continue to light with the 2012 Entrepreneurship Conference, the roundtable and followup initiative to assemble a regional entrepreneurship strategy, this weekly column and our television entrepreneur series with  Shaw Broadcasting are all designed to light the fire and fan the flames of entrepreneurship in the Okanagan.

So let’s talk about this exciting concept of entrepreneurial centres of excellence that I see rising from wonderful ideas across both Canada and the U.S.

An ideal centre of excellence concept drives the development of our regional economies by helping create new jobs, products, services and technologies as well as businesses.

In partnership with industry and academia, a sound example of such a centre co-invests to commercialize innovation originating in our region’s colleges, universities and research sectors.

Such a centre model also co-invests in commercialization, technology transfer and talent development projects in the segments of regional economies that will drive our regions to prosperity and ensure a satisfactory level of global competitiveness.

So how is this accomplished? The heart of a bonafide centre of excellence is its ability to work directly with academia and industry to bring prospective partners together to turn worthy ideas into dollars—and thus, profitability.

The elements behind these centres ask the questions, “What’s needed?” and   “What’s new?”

I personally enjoyed this experience when conducting evaluation studies at the Communications Research Centre just outside of Ottawa during Canada’s research work in satellite communications and space research.

What a hoot for taht was for this prairie boy!

One of the genuine assets of a true entrepreneurial centre of excellence is its ability to work through its own tailored programs to commercialize innovation and creativity, transfer new technologies and develop promising talent, the latter often forgotten and ignored.

A good series of functional roles an entrepreneurial centre of excellence are:

• small business assistance

• workforce and entrepreneurial development

• international trade and investment assistance

• total quality management

• technology transfer and product develoopment

• Internet and computer services

• economic research environment

• continuing education

• training

• assistance to community-based organizations

• providing conference and workshop facilities which can be used for workshops, courses, seminars and new venture incubation space.

An entrepreneurial centre of excellence combines both industry, university and related organizations with a sprinkling of government entities, can present a wonderful plethora of powerful results oriented actors that would make most entrepreneurial ventures successes a reality.

Hence, it is my explicit desire this week to ask each and every one of you reading this column to reflect on a role you can play in our Okanagan region to stimulate the creation of an entrepreneurial sustainable community with an exceptional Canadian example of an entrepreneurial centre of excellence.

OK, so I’m looking at Innovation Drive at UBCO, but  in collaboration with UBCO and Okanagan College and our economic development agencies, let’s assemble a B.C. Interior example of what can readily be an inspiration for enlarging the entrepreneurial footprint on the Okanagan Valley floor.

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