SFU Beedie entrepreneurship program wins global award, expands with Mitacs partnership

Apr 21, 2020

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Dr. Elena Groppa, alumnus of i2I

Invention to Innovation (i2), offered by SFU’s Beedie School of Business, has won international recognition after being highlighted among the annual Innovations That Inspire named by AACSB International (AACSB)—the world’s largest business education network.

i2I is a transformational entrepreneurship experience that equips graduate scientists and engineers with the frameworks, perspectives and techniques to develop an innovative mindset and commercialize their inventions while overcoming marketplace challenges.

Innovations That Inspire, an annual initiative run by AACSB, recognizes institutions from around the world that serve as champions of change in the business education landscape. This year’s theme, “Catalysts for Innovation,” emphasizes business education’s efforts to elevate entrepreneurial thinking and new business creation.

The news comes after SFU Beedie signed a partnership with Mitacs, to build a pilot for a non-credit i2I Skills Training program, taking the successful i2I curriculum and creating a hybrid model allowing more entrepreneurs to make a real-world impact with their scientific inventions. Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving challenges with research solutions from the best academic institutions. The successful pilot program culminates in May and both parties are excited to expand the program nationally.

“I am proud that our outstanding i2I program has been honoured with this prestigious accolade, and is growing its connections with business,” says Ali Dastmalchian, SFU Beedie’s Dean. “I believe strongly that business schools must both advance our understanding and share our knowledge with our community. This recognition from AACSB and the Mitacs partnership represent a powerful validation that we are delivering on our vision.”

The hybrid model is being delivered over a seven-month period, through a combination of face-to-face sessions and a sophisticated online learning environment. The experiential program, which simultaneously develops the student and the innovation idea, is taught by a mix of SFU Beedie Innovation & Entrepreneurship research faculty, along with experienced marketing, IP, and investment practitioners.

“Mitacs is proud to be partnering with the SFU Beedie School of Business’s Invention to Innovation program to deliver a unique model to our interns and fellows,” says John Hepburn, CEO and Scientific Director, Mitacs. “This collaborative effort has been a phenomenal partnership that is seeing participants develop entrepreneurial mindsets to commercialize their inventions. It’s a great honour for our teams to be recognized by the AACSB as a 2020 Innovation That Inspires.”

“We have been very impressed with the way that the first cohort in the i2I Skills Training program have both advanced their innovation ideas and developed the perspective and skills to create greater impact from laboratory research throughout their careers,” says Elicia Maine, Academic Director of the program.

“These scientist and engineers have developed entrepreneurial capabilities throughout the i2I program, and are now poised to make greater impact as scientist-entrepreneurs, champions of innovation, and as translational scientists.”

SFU Beedie has offered i2I as a for-credit Graduate Certificate since 2015, helping more than 90 scientists develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Some have even laddered this program into SFU Beedie’s Management of Technology MBA.

Nabil Shalabi, PhD, a nanotechnology engineer, is a current student in the i2I Graduate Certificate. Nabil quickly realized that “the business training actually improves the engineering and the research; my focus has changed, the way that I talk about my technology, the way I work with the technology.”

Alumnus Matthew Dahabieh, PhD, CSO of Renaissance BioScience, sheds some light on how those entrepreneurial mindset changes occur. He chose to do the i2I Graduate Certificate as “an opportunity to learn business and entrepreneurship fundamentals in an approachable format with a diverse network of innovators”.  He explained that science and engineering inventions are often surprisingly difficult to commercialize: “there are many uncertainties, there’s a whole host of challenges with respect to the viability of the technology, but also how it fits into a market. Importantly, when you identify and understand these types of problems at the forefront of technology development you can be very proactive in developing solutions. Learning these fundamentals is really important.”

Applications for the 2020 cohorts of the i2I Graduate Certificate and i2I Skills Training programs are now open. Visit beedie.sfu.ca/i2i or contact i2i@sfu.ca to learn more.