Towards the 100 Incubator City and the Changing Role of the University as We Know it

One of the more fascinating ideas I’ve heard recently is that of the increased role of the university in incubation and the idea of the 100 incubator city. Also, the leveraging of universities in cities towards an enhanced incubation model and also through “start-up zones”.

We can suppose that perhaps “start-up zones” are less intensive services-wise than incubators. But these are just what the doctor ordered in many urban zones and university campuses: space where students (and faculty for that matter) can innovate, create, and make new things and new organizations.

“Universities are Central Players in the (Economic Development) of Cities in the Knowledge Economy”

Recently published ” University-based start-up incubators to play a critical role in renaissance of Canadian city-state” in the Financial Post, written by Alan Shepard, President of Concorida University in Montreal Dr. Shepard is at the forefront of thinking about universities, their changing roles, and academic entrepreneurship. He was formerly at Ryerson University in Toronto which has one of the more well-known and successful digital innovation and incubation operations in Canada. He proposes a “next generation partnership” between cities, universities and industry to spurn innovation and revitalization.

See the aricle here: and there is also a video to watch as well.

A short article, there is a lot of powerful, change-oriented thinking going on here. Kudos to Dr. Shepard.  He lays out 3 strategies for he City of Montreal that would bring on a renaissance of sorts. These could be applied to any City of decent size today, however, is my opinion.

“Let’s be Ambitious and Create 100 Incubators  in the City of Montreal”

He talks about how universities the incubators they can spurn will help lead to the renaissance of the Canadian City. His vision calls for 100 incubators in a city. While it may sound like a lot as many people believe the market is already saturated, Dr. Shepard does not. Instead, he argues that some years ago, very few people would have ever guessed that 20,000 people would be attending universities. Imagine 20,000 students in university incubators in any major city outside of Silicon Valley. What an explosion of creativity that would be?  Dr. Shephard proposes that a modest start would be 10% of the university’s population being house in student incubators. What is the right % at parity?  One of the thoughts I had was 50%, which is what I learned through Scott Shane’s Entrepreneurship Research Seminar where I read a myriad of papers and basically came away with an understanding that approximately 50% of any population is entrepreneurial (at some point in their lives). 

Student entrepreneurs in-residence might be sponsored by others, and interact with one or more universities. They might even be housed in hospitals, says Dr. Shepard. He pulls from some examples from the “Big Apple” and refers to the Cornell – Technion collaboration

He even gets into policy, including tax policy, and what might be done to encourage the proliferation of these incubators. Even microloans are put on the table. Brilliant.

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