New Report Highlights Ontario Universities’ Economic Impact, but Their Footprint in Communities Goes Much Farther

Today, the Council of Ontario Universities released the results of a new economic impact report that highlights how Ontario’s universities serve as powerful economic engines, fueling prosperity not just for the province but for the communities they serve.

The report, Driving a Prosperous Future: Economic Analysis of the Lasting Impact of Ontario Universities, tells us that Ontario’s universities make a total economic impact of $115.8 billion on the province’s GDP.

But the impact of Ontario’s universities extends beyond economic development. We are rooted in our communities, and it’s important to highlight not just the economic, but the cultural and community impact of our students, staff, faculty and researchers.

Ontario’s universities are proud of the strong, multi-layered relationships that exist between them and their communities. Not just individually, but as a sector, our universities are partnering with other sectors, including business, government, social services, health care, environment and agriculture, to embrace continuous improvement and innovation as a way to meet the many challenges and needs of Ontario and our communities in these fast-changing times.

Here are just a few of the ways Ontario’s universities are engaging with partners to help create a better future:

  • Together, we are driving and fostering experiential learning, applied research and innovative teaching partnerships to address the complex issues facing our unique communities now, and in the future. In just one example, UOIT and the City of Oshawa recently launched a ‘Teaching City’ initiative in which, along with local and regional partners, they will develop the city as a living laboratory to address complex urban issues and identify new opportunities.
  • Ontario’s universities are also identifying and developing initiatives that are inspiring the researchers and innovators who create life-changing discoveries. For example, Western University’s BrainsCAN initiative brings people together to better understand brain disorders, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury.
  • We are developing and commercializing technologies and techniques that help us when we get sick and generate the patents, spin-off companies and inventions that strengthen our miners and farmers, make our province a world leader in artificial intelligence, and open up whole new markets to entrepreneurs. For example, a successful partnership between IBM Canada, Ontario Centres of Excellence and 15 academic institutions – otherwise known as SOSCIP – uses advanced computing tools to foster research collaboration between academic and industry researchers.
  • We are also partnering with businesses, communities and governments, contributing to seminars, workshops and academic initiatives to equip our students with the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow while driving the business goals of Ontario.
  • Through work-integrated learning opportunities for our students hosted by our partners off-campus – like internships, co-op placements, professional experience years, and service learning in the community – our students learn how to apply their academic knowledge in practical settings, and get an important leg up on employment opportunities post-graduation. U of T’s network of incubators, accelerators and programs, including the Rotman School of Management, is just one example of how one university is helping more than 200 student-led startup teams connect with expert mentors to provide the kind of hands-on advice they’ll need to thrive and compete.
  • Our universities are addressing many other practical, scalable and sustainable solutions to issues affecting our province and local communities. For example, once a rust-belt industrial town in steep decline, Brantford’s core has been transformed and its economy boosted by the presence of Wilfrid Thousands of Laurier students have brought vitality to the city, and the downtown is brimming with activity and signs of private-sector investment. It has become a model for other cities trying to revitalize their own downtowns.
  • Like McMaster University which helps deliver family health care including a program for newborns at the McMaster University Medical Centre in downtown Hamilton, universities in cities across the province are sharing access to facilities, equipment, systems, information and data to help build a better future for all Ontarians.

Ultimately, everyone benefits from a strong community, and our communities benefit from the support of our universities. As the province prepares to face numerous challenges and disruptions in the years ahead, the impact of universities demonstrated in this report — the strong communities, economic growth, and talented leaders, employees, and entrepreneurs — will be more important than ever in ensuring all Ontarians thrive.

David Lindsay
President and CEO
Council of Ontario Universities