If you open the doors to innovation centres, collaboration hubs or prototyping labs across the province – or better yet, across the country – you’ll discover creative environments filled with engineers and engineering alumni.
So why then is there a common misconception that engineers are not innovative or entrepreneurial?
I think that the answer is twofold. It is partly because the profession breeds a culture of humility, where individuals want to be recognized for their contributions and solutions, and not for their status. The second reason is that entrepreneurial enterprises are all about risk-taking. They are characterized by lean start-ups, efficient decision-making and ‘fast failures’. Risk-taking is not typically something one would consider inherent in traditional engineering education – which is founded on thorough systems of analysis and troubleshooting – but as problem-solvers and natural innovators, engineers are well-equipped to become key players in the entrepreneurial process.
The saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” As a parent, I know that it is impossible to teach your kids everything they need to know in life to become fully-participating members of society. The external support of various influencers – from teachers to peers – shape our personal experiences from an early age and help mould us into the people that we become.
My April visit to Concordia University’s District 3 innovation centre and my attendance at the Halton Futures Innovation Summit & Awards in June confirmed that in much the same way, it takes a collaborative ecosystem to nurture robust start-ups and well-rounded business ventures. For engineering-entrepreneurs to become truly successful, they require diverse partnerships and co-operative networks outside of their usual professional circles.
District 3’s innovation space encourages collaboration between engineering and non-engineering students in order to broaden market access and to develop an integrated system for problem-solving. By better connecting engineers with those they are designing their solutions for, markets are able to fully appreciate what a given solution is intended to do.
The work at Haltech Regional Innovation Centre similarly demonstrated how innovation, collaboration and smart integrated technologies are transforming everything from industrial manufacturing and healthcare to clean energy, communications and social networks. By fostering integrated communities of experienced innovators, academic thought-leaders and burgeoning entrepreneurs, technological advancements and new business ventures can enjoy a more comprehensive reach and impact.
Marrying an entrepreneurial culture of risk-taking with analytical and methodical frames of thought is not a requirement unique to the engineering profession. In fact, it is a broader Canadian cultural necessity. As a nation, Canada must develop a bolder and more sophisticated culture of risk-taking to more effectively compete on an international scale, and to ensure that the very citizens who drive innovation and economic growth in our country, have access to the resources and opportunities that they need to succeed.
OSPE’s own entrepreneurial program hopes to connect engineer-entrepreneurs with new investors, collaborators and markets to which they may not have previously had access. After all, who is better suited than engineers to unite scientific discovery with real societal need, in order to create a better world for all of us?
This message is but one article from OSPE’s upcoming September issue of The Voice magazine. The highly anticipated September issue will be hot off the press next week, so check your mailboxes and inboxes for your personal copy of The Voice, sent directly to you.
Remember, you can opt to receive The Voice magazine in print or online. If you are a student member, or you opted for the e-version, you will receive an email with a link to the magazine every quarter. If you opted for the print version, you can expect a hard copy in the mail every quarter. Just one of the many perks of being an OSPE member!