The Geography of Higher Education of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Assessing the role of Memorial University within its regional innovation ecosystem
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are increasingly producing broader societal and economic value for their surrounding communities. HEIs now commonly engage in collaborations with external stakeholders and provide support, including through their teaching and research activities, to entrepreneurs, contributing to growth and well-being, especially in the regions in which they are located. The present report investigates the contribution of Memorial University to the economic development of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada, through education, research, and collaboration with stakeholders. The report studies the role of the university in delivering on these goals through a spatial; lens that recognises it operates in a sparsely populated province that possesses an abundance of natural resources (e.g., renewable energy sources, petroleum) and is home to several ocean-based industries including marine transportation fisheries, offshore oil and gas exploration and production. Against this backdrop, Memorial University plays a pivotal role in diversifying and modernising the province’s economy, not least given Newfoundland and Labrador’s exposure to shifts in global commodity prices (oil in particular), a declining and ageing population, and a business ecosystem dominated by large foreign-based corporations that focus on natural-resource extraction.
As the only university in Newfoundland and Labrador, since its foundation in 1949, Memorial has complied with its "special obligation" to the people of the province, as enshrined in its vision and core values, to contribute to the socioeconomic development of the province. To fulfil this obligation, Memorial has geared its missions and activities to serve the needs of the community including by enhancing its physical presence via several new campuses across the province specialised in areas of regional interest and strength. As of 2022, the University had five campuses across the island of Newfoundland, including a
campus in Grenfell, in the more rural west coast, specialised in art and environmental studies, and a new campus in Labrador specialised in Artic and Sub Artic studies, food, and agriculture. Across its campuses, the University has oriented its teaching, research, and engagement activities to mirror the economic fabric of Newfoundland and Labrador, training the labour force with skills needed by industry and undertaking research for the oil and gas industry, and ocean-based industries. As a case in point, one of the campuses, the Marine Institute, specialised in marine science and technology, has a dedicated hub on ocean
innovation; “The Launch,” in the town of Holyrood on Conception Bay. Memorial has also established the Centre for Cold Oceans Research (C-CORE), a separately incorporated entity providing research and consulting services to the oil and gas industry, shipping, and aerospace, which has helped these industries develop activities in the province, for instance by providing technology solutions for risk-mitigation in ice and iceberg prone waters.
Memorial is also engaging with new industries in addition to resource-based activities. For instance, the University cooperates with the nascent ICT sector, conducting research, but also supporting aspiring technology entrepreneurs. Importantly, Memorial promotes entrepreneurship in the province by providing learning opportunities to help students, faculty, and staff discover new growth opportunities, develop and implement their own ideas, and move their research to the market. Genesis, Memorial’s St. John’s incubator, is open to students and start-ups that want to develop their technology-based ventures. Genesis supports technology start-ups from idea creation all the way to scaling-up. Since its opening in 1997, Genesis has incubated over 70 start-up companies and created 2 500 jobs. Memorial is home to two other incubation facilities, the Centre for Social Enterprise providing dedicated programming related to not-for-profit entrepreneurship and social enterprise, in St. John's, and Navigate, which offers learning opportunities in entrepreneurship and supports start-ups at the Grenfell Campus. Memorial also partners with a health innovation incubator, the Bounce Labs, housed on the St. John’s Campus, and has
strengthened its ties with the federal cluster on Ocean Science; the Ocean Supercluster through the “Ocean Start-up Project”. In particular, the aim of the collaboration with the Ocean Supercluster is to deliver mentoring and incubation for ocean tech start-ups inside the University, in collaboration with private and public partners across the sector.
To support its engagement activities with external stakeholders, Memorial has created policies and structures dedicated to public engagement. It has developed a Senate-approved, public engagement strategy. Following this strategy, public engagement units have been created to facilitate collaboration between partners outside the University, especially public authorities, NGOs, and SMEs. For example, the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development brings together different stakeholders, including government agencies, SMEs, municipalities, and NGOs.
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St. John's Campus > Office of Public Engagement
St. John's, NL