Simon Fraser University students with entrepreneurial ambitions in technology will be able to continue building their skills and developing market-driven products after an expansion of the successful Technology Entrepreneurship @ SFU program.

“Deepening the province’s talent pool is a key part of the #BCTECH Strategy,” said Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk. “This investment will help to train the tech sector talent of the future, giving them the opportunity to develop innovative products and solutions that enhance lives.”

One-time funding of $400,000 will fund a new work-integrated learning program at SFU that will enable teams of student entrepreneurs to spend a semester focusing on their ventures full time and refining them for the market. Technology Entrepreneurship @ SFU students have developed diverse products, such as wearable technology that tracks hockey metrics, and a prototype for an inexpensive, customized hearing aid.

“This new program is another step forward in SFU’s commitment to being Canada’s most community-engaged research university, and to our innovation strategy,” said Joy Johnson, SFU vice-president, research and international. “By equipping students with the skills to become entrepreneurs even before they have completed their studies, they are receiving the best possible start in becoming high-impact innovators, and putting their ideas to use for the betterment of society.”

The funding will also support mechatronics graduate students who wish to gain practical experience developing their research into commercial applications.

“This program is an amazing opportunity for students. We not only conceive ideas but can now take them further than we ever imagined, all while completing our degrees,” said Ben Hwang, co-creator of the hockey metrics venture Vamo-Tech.

The Technology Entrepreneurship @ SFU program began as a pilot project in 2012 with an investment of $210,000 each from the Spencer Creo Foundation and BC Innovation Council (BCIC). Since then, BCIC has contributed a further $110,000 in one-time funding for a design studio. Teams of students from the Beedie School of Business and Mechatronics Systems Engineering have been accepted into the program each year with a goal of producing several potential companies or product ideas annually. This year, the program also began accepting students from any faculty if they are taking part in SFU’s Charles Chang certificate in innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Cross-disciplinary experience and collaboration is key to successful entrepreneurship and solving the challenges facing Canada and the world. But if we are going to encourage this behavior in our students, we also need to support it,” said SFU director of entrepreneurship, Sarah Lubik.

This funding fulfills a commitment of the #BCTECH Strategy, released in January 2016, to build on the Technology Entrepreneurship @ SFU Program. The #BCTECH Strategy and B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint are working together to ensure B.C. post-secondary graduates have the skills, experience and creativity they need to find meaningful tech careers and support the industry.

Government is re-engineering education, from kindergarten through to post-secondary, to ensure that students are getting the knowledge, work experience and exposure to tech careers, especially at the post-secondary levels.