York University’s leadership in thriving, cross-sector collaborations

At a pivotal time when the global economic ecosystem is rapidly changing, cross-sector collaboration is increasingly important. Driven by world-leading research and innovation excellence, Canada’s universities play vital roles in helping position this country as a leader in the new economy.

The value of higher education in cross-sector collaboration is immeasurable. Indeed, collaborations are often built around the well-established education-industry-government trio. This is changing, however. Today, we’re looking to new models of collaboration to expand and enrich older models, with government playing a foundational role. At York University, four prime examples prove this point.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Industry Partnership Fund supports AI and machine learning (ML) research projects for industry and York researchers.

For over twenty years, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and a consortium of 14 federal departments and agencies, the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS) was Ontario’s leading network of researchers, policy-makers and practitioners working in migration and settlement.

CERIS closed its doors this year, but the legacy remains. Its Community Knowledge Program still operates under the tutelage of an NGO consortium in Toronto. CERIS also led to the birth of a new project: Building Migrant Resilience in Cities. Here, researchers create new knowledge about emerging trends in international migration and resilience. They deepen the links among academics, non-profits and government, building new synergies. With partners across Quebec and Ontario, this network will train the next generation of researchers and disseminate knowledge to policy- and decision-makers around the world.

Innovation York, the innovation office at York University, facilitates the commercial, economic and social impacts of research and innovation. In 2018-2019, it created relationships with 173 companies, such as Sun Life Financial, Borealis AI, World Vision Canada, TD Bank and Sanofi Pasteur. YSpace, York’s community innovation hub in Markham, supported 26 startups and 80 entrepreneurs. In fact, startups supported by Innovation York created more than 175 jobs, raised over $10 million in investment and generated more than $7 million in revenue (2018-2019).

An example of a cross-sector collaboration is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Industry Partnership Fund, launched in 2019 to support AI and machine learning (ML) research projects for industry and York researchers. Here, Innovation York works as a matchmaker where companies can explore the feasibility of employing AI/ML in their business and researchers can apply their knowledge and technologies to real-world situations.

Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid-response Simulation (ADERSIM) evaluates and enhances disaster mitigation and preparedness planning and emergency response strategies.

The Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid-response Simulation (ADERSIM) is another example of York’s cross-sector collaboration. This is a suite of programs created by a team of 30 researchers across Canada, reflecting the needs of industry and government partners. ADERSIM’s goal is to evaluate and enhance disaster mitigation and preparedness planning and emergency response strategies by governmental, non-governmental and private sector organizations at local, provincial, national and global levels.

In 2017, ADERSIM partnered with the City of Vaughan’s Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) in an award-winning project. Colleagues from VFRS, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México and the Universities of Calabria and Genoa developed a simulation tool to examine performances of fire and rescue services and provide solutions for optimum resource use.

Results from this led VFRS to consider improvements in their services. Clearly, ADERSIM has made an impact on city planning in Vaughan and beyond.

These cross-sector collaborations at York University underscore the importance of government being at the collaboration table and the value of higher education in the new economy.