Dean of Innovation, Sheridan College
By leveraging its network of industry and community partners, Sheridan is taking a collaborative approach.
For John Helliker, Dean of Innovation at Sheridan College, collaboration is the name of the game when it comes to research and innovation. “Sheridan, because of its reputation and expertise in different areas, has been able to take an interesting approach to research,” he says. “Our vast network of alumni and industry and community partners in different key industries within the Greater Toronto Area, allows us to network in a way few institutions can.”
The strength of that network is part of what drives innovation at Sheridan’s six Research and Incubation Centres, each of which has a different area of focus, ranging from mobile innovation and screen industries to music theatre, advanced manufacturing, and elder research. Among these is the Entrepreneurship Discovery and Growth Engine (EDGE), a dedicated entrepreneurship hub at Sheridan’s Hazel McCallion Campus in Mississauga. The hub, which serves the general public in addition to the Sheridan community, offers programs and other resources for budding entrepreneurs.
EDGE supports entrepreneurs and change-makers at every stage of their journey
“EDGE has programming specifically geared to people at an early inquiry level, and it moves up from that,” says Helliker. “From someone who just has an interest in knowing what entrepreneurship is, and what it might mean for them to someone with a full-fledged idea, we offer mentorship, training, co-working space, and support to access funding.” EDGE regularly hosts events that showcase and support startups and bring together Sheridan’s vast network of community partners from across Brampton, Mississauga, and Oakville. Entrepreneurs in the making can apply to co-locate within EDGE, where they have free access to workspace, one-on-one mentoring, and an interconnected, supportive community. “We try to ensure that technology and other types of innovation support from our research centres are available to entrepreneurs at EDGE,” says Helliker.
Thanks to its network, research at Sheridan takes a uniquely collaborative approach
Many colleges have strong applied research programs, but Sheridan’s approach is collaborative on a larger scale than most. “We have many partnerships with individual companies and community organizations, which is transformative for both the external partners and the students involved,” says Helliker. “But what we’ve been able to do — and it’s partly a matter of approach, and partly the unique capacity of Sheridan — is take a cluster approach. It’s not just about individual organizations and companies, but about working together with different types of organizations, including charities and nonprofits, together under the innovation umbrella.” This approach is fundamental in Sheridan’s many partnerships. One such innovative example is through EDGE’s current partnership with six community foundations in the Brant/Halton/Peel Region as part of the federal government’s Investment Readiness Program, which supports social innovation and social finance in the development of a regional social innovation ecosystem.
Anchor institutions like Sheridan transform communities through innovation. With access to EDGE, entrepreneurs are set to continue playing an integral role in that effort.