Ontario’s universities launch commitments to partner for a better future

Partnering for a better future for ontario, council of ontario universities, ontario's universities, research and innovation, researchOntario’s universities have laid out their role as active and willing partners in securing a more vibrant and prosperous future for students, communities and the province, in a new report called Partnering for a Better Future for Ontario.

The campaign report commits Ontario’s universities to working with the government, municipalities, business, and public sector institutions to help students thrive, build strong communities, and drive a growing and dynamic province.

The report—which includes 24 recommendations to government—caps off a year of listening, during which universities engaged with hundreds of thousands of Ontarians through an online survey, roundtables, and at public events to hear their hopes and concerns about the future.

Highlighting research and innovation

With a chapter dedicated to Research and Innovation, the report highlights how the impacts of university-led research extend beyond the institution and into the daily lives of Ontarians, helping to feed them and transport them to work, save lives, power homes, organize social structures, and improve communications.

But university researchers don’t act alone. Dynamic partnerships with business, industry, colleges, government, and communities have resulted in ground-breaking discoveries in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, nanotechnology, clean energy, health research, and social sciences.

Such initiatives include creating smart homes in order for seniors to live in their homes longer, examining the medical uses for wearable technology, making commercial cross-border traffic between Canada and the U.S. more efficient, and working with police forces to improve officers’ use-of-force decision-making during confrontations.

According to Statistics Canada, the higher education sector is the second largest performer of research and development in Ontario, carrying out an estimated $5.2 billion in work, which translated into 34 per cent of the province’s research activities in 2014.

Partnering for a better future for ontario, council of ontario universities, ontario's universities, research and innovation, researchDuring the listening initiative, Ontario’s universities heard innovation and forward-thinking research cited as a crucial element for continued transformation and further growth.

“What Ontarians told us over the past year is that they don’t want a society of silos; they want a society of partners,” says David Lindsay, President of the Council of Ontario Universities, which represents the province’s 21 universities.

“They recognize that the world is changing rapidly and they are largely optimistic about the future. But they also have concerns—for example, job security, technological disruption, the aging population and the effects of climate change.”

What universities are recommending

When it comes to research, the report recommends the Ontario government:

  • Work with the federal government to improve research funding.
  • Increase investments in the Ontario Research Fund and ensure it supports a wide range of research and innovation.
  • Support the movement of ideas and inventions into the marketplace by creating a Research Commercialization Fund.

In general, Partnering for a Better Future for Ontario identifies key challenges that need to be addressed by bold thinking and partnerships, including:

  • Boosting Ontario’s talent pipeline and providing graduates with the skills to thrive in an economy disrupted by artificial intelligence and automation.
  • Improving municipal infrastructure and delivery of services such as transit, health care, social services and high-quality Internet.
  • Adapting to a sharp growth in the province’s aging population and increasing demand for mental-health supports for adolescents and young adults.
  • Securing a sustainable future through clean technology and adopting best practices in lowering carbon emissions.

Besides Research and Innovation, among the report’s key recommendations to the Ontario government are:

  • Jobs and Skills: Prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace by investing in more experiential (work-related) opportunities and providing incentives to employers, especially small businesses and non-profits, to work with universities on expanding access to these opportunities.
  • The Economy: Invest to help universities expand their network of incubators that help entrepreneurs launch businesses, and provide more graduate scholarships and other incentives to attract the best talent to the province.
  • Health Care: Expand support for research in medicine and health care, and work with universities to ensure they are helping train the right mix of health care professionals to provide high-quality care for all Ontarians.

“Now is Ontario’s time to shine, and Ontario’s universities see partnerships as the model through which we can all work together for a better future for all,” says Lindsay.

“Ontario’s 21 universities are deeply ingrained in the fabric of this province through the students they train, the research they produce, and the knowledge and expertise they share with our local communities. Strong institutions will build a strong economy. Our new report spells out how universities can respond to Ontarians’ aspirations for the future.”

To read the report, click here.

To view a video of David Lindsay introducing the report, click here. For more information on the listening campaign, universities’ commitments, and their recommendations for a better future, visit ontariosuniversities.ca.

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