President, University of Saskatchewan
The University of Saskatchewan places innovation and research and development at its core.
Undoubtedly, both companies and countries recognize that innovation and research and development (R&D) are measurable pillars of growth. As a result, many nations have placed innovation at the heart of their growth strategies to achieve greater progress.
According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s gross domestic expenditures on R&D totalled $37.5 billion in 2018. This was the highest level on record. Over half of the gain was due to increased spending on R&D performed by the higher education sector.
The University of Saskatchewan is one such university that places innovation and R&D at its core. Peter Stoicheff, President of the University of Saskatchewan, is helping the institution solidify itself as a national leader in innovation.
Has innovation always been a priority at the University of Saskatchewan?
Innovation is woven throughout the university’s strategic plan. We commit to developing the knowledge and skills to thrive, moving discoveries into the world, and being a go-to resource and partner for the people of Saskatchewan and beyond. This university’s expertise contributes to innovation and discovery, which I want to ensure continues.
What sets Saskatchewan and the university apart as drivers of innovation?
Surprising to some, Saskatoon is the second fastest-growing IT hub in the country, dubbed “Silicon Prairie.” Four Saskatchewan companies are included in The Globe and Mail’s list of the fastest-growing companies in Canada and are led by, and have many employees from, graduates of the university. We’re also physically connected to Innovation Place, a research park that has helped us establish an innovation corridor between our campuses. And our science infrastructure at the university is second to none and includes the nation’s only synchrotron.
Our Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) lab, for instance, has been at the forefront of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, being the first to isolate the virus in the country and to develop a vaccine, which is currently in human clinical trials. I’d also like to add that we value the creativity and collaboration from innovation in the arts, social sciences, and STEM fields.
How do you define innovation?
Innovation is a term that means different things to different people. The University of Saskatchewan includes an interdisciplinary approach that can be applied, resulting in a direct and tangible impact on the betterment of the world. And this can only be achieved by creating an environment that includes cultural diversity, something we value as the key to getting to where we need to go.
What’s next on the horizon for the university?
We just announced a new startup incubator, Opus, which is a pre-accelerator program designed to help mobilize innovations developed on campus. We provide access to programs, infrastructure, and a network of mentors and advisors. It was created to foster entrepreneurial thinking and culture and to get ideas off the ground. It’s only through actualizing ideas that innovation can prove its worth for the betterment of society.