Ideas come together at Waterloo Innovation Summit

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Business, startup, and technology leaders gathered in the Humanities Theatre as part of the Waterloo Innovation Summit Sept. 14 to 16. 

Part learning experience, part networking event, and part innovation showcase, the Waterloo Innovation Summit brought all levels of Canadian business and technology together to discuss Canada’s future in a fast-changing world and how the Region of Waterloo will be a part of that plan.

Events were split between Communitech Hub and the University of Waterloo, with a kickoff reception Wednesday night and tours of UW facilities and local technology and startup offices. 

Speakers talked to a full house in the Humanities Theatre Thursday morning. Those onstage included Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, journalist Amanda Lang, and UNICEF’s first Business Mentor Emma Sinclair.

Also speaking was UW’s own President Feridun Hamdullahpur, who gave a teaser of the school’s new Global Entrepreneurship and Disruptive Innovation (GEDI, pronounced like the Jedi from Star Wars) program, which he said will “anchor this end of Toronto’s innovation corridor.”

Minister Bains, who was once an adjunct lecturer in UW’s master of public service program, told the story of how Canada’s innovation landscape is changing. His ministry received over 1300 ideas because of an “extraordinary level of participation from business leaders, education, and indigenous communities” to form an innovation plan. For post-secondary institutions, this plan includes $2 billion to renew university and college campuses, and specific research investments such as the recent $76 million for building a quantum computing model here at UW. 

The model “has the potential to upend everything we know about computing,” Minister Bains said. “[It] could plant the seeds for the next great innovation right here.”

The minister also relayed his plans to introduce computer programming to students earlier, and his support for greater diversity and international talent in Canada’s innovative ecosystem.

Sinclair ended the morning’s first round of speakers. Instead of talking about the future, she told her own story of innovation and summer job hunting. For more information on Sinclair, see our profile on page 15.

The summit continued through Friday night. Other speakers included Walter Isaacson, known for his biographies on innovators like Steve Jobs, and workshops about topics ranging from diversity to scaling up.