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Innovating with Industry: Carleton University

Interested in hearing about how other institutions approach industry engagement? Look no further than our new Accelerator member, Carleton University, who share their experience in the interview below. We had the pleasure of speaking to Sandra Crocker, Associate VP Strategic Initiatives and Operations at the UIIN Conference in Budapest in May and also heard from Dr. Rafik Goubran, Vice President, Research and International, and Jennifer Conley, Chief Advancement Officer.

What are Carleton’s goals in terms of university-industry engagement?

Rafik: One goal is to have strategic alliances with organizations that share our values and want to challenge what is possible. Another is to have mutually-beneficial and multi-year collaborations connecting industry’s need for innovation, talent and enhanced branding and corporate social responsibility with Carleton’s renowned researchers, students and engagement opportunities. Many of these relationships begin with a singularly focused partnership, but the goal is to develop these into long-term strategic, holistic partnerships under the stewardship of our corporate relations team members.

One goal is to have strategic alliances with organizations that share our values and want to challenge what is possible”.

Can you share any success stories regarding Carleton’s university-industry engagement?

Rafik: Amongst others, we have the Women in Engineering and IT Partners Program which works to close the gender gap in STEM and is the first program of its kind in Canada. In our pilot phase, 16 companies came together to support the program. There’s also the Carleton Internship option with Shopify, a new model for work-integrated learning, where students in the Internship Option are both full-time computer science students and paid employees of Shopify. The Ericsson-Carleton University Partnership for Research and Leadership in Wireless Networks is a collaborative effort to drive innovation, train skilled workers and build more reliable, secure technology for the future of 5G wireless communications. This partnership brings key units at the university into partnership, such as research, Corporate Social Responsibility and the co-op office.

Could you tell us more about this partnership with Ericsson and how it came about?

Sandra: Ericsson has a local R&D in Ottawa so this relationship has been long-standing. Ericsson are one of our top five co-op employers, a large employer of our alumni, and they have participated in a lot of our outreach. Also, we’ve had numerous one-off, one-faculty relationships with them but wanted to move this toward a more strategic, integrated partnership. Ericsson’s concern was that they were hiring people straight out of university who did not know what 5G really was. So we co-developed a course whereby students get a grounding in 5G so they are much better prepared for the workforce and for a headstart at Ericsson. The course also has guest speakers from Ericsson and participants can tour the Ericsson labs.

What challenges have you been faced with over the last years in driving university-industry engagement? And what have you done to overcome them?

Jennifer: Universities are traditionally siloed into units, but our corporate relations model is breaking down barriers and working for corporate partners as a holistic team. We have found that building relationships internally is the foundation of successful industry-academic partnerships. Communication and collaboration have been key, as well as learning about areas outside of our own expertise, co-locating staff, sharing access to data, co-creating communications materials, and celebrating each other’s success makes our corporate relations professionals prepared to promote Carleton as one. Together we showcase the vast partnership opportunities available to potential partners. We take the approach of no one “owns” a partnership, collectively we all manage them.

Sharing access to data, co-creating communications materials, and celebrating each other’s success prepares our corporate relations professionals to promote Carleton as one”.

What other support structures do you rely on to bridge this ‘gap’ between academia and industry?

Sandra: There could be more, and I think many universities would agree with this. But we have created several dedicated business-facing websites, where, depending on the unit, we have a number of industry advisory councils often at the departmental or the faculty level. Those become really great ambassadors for partnership development. We also work quite closely with Ottawa’s economic development agency, and sit on one of their boards; this allows us to see who they’re trying to recruit and gives us the opportunity to participate in foreign direct investment bids.

What is the importance of partnerships and collaborations in driving innovation or academic excellence?

Sandra: A lot of our partnerships, and a lot of our motivation comes from our graduate students; they are innovative and very interested in today’s problems – they want to know what industry is thinking about now. By partnering, we signal to that cohort that we’re engaged, and that if they come to our institution, that there are opportunities for them to engage too. Partnerships also play an important role in the recruitment of faculty. Our new cohort of faculties is much more entrepreneurially minded than previous generations, so they’re looking for an institution that prioritizes innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement.


To learn more about Carleton University partnerships, see their current industry partnerships or contact them by email.


If you enjoyed this chat, you may also enjoy our Research Valorisation, Commercialisation and Technology Transfer series, or the Impact and Sustainability at Universities series.


Madeline Arkins is a Project Officer at UIIN. In her work she focuses on topics relating to social impact and innovation in regional ecosystems.

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