Atlantic Canada’s post secondary institutions are playing a major role in developing the region’s entrepreneurial spirit. There is no question that our universities draw young, driven minds to Atlantic Canada, and produce world class research that fuels innovation.
For entrepreneurs planning to launch a startup, being a student can provide a favourable advantage. From student-dedicated competitions to accessing academic research, universities are a great resource for entrepreneurs.
According to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Atlantic Canada has offered university education since 1785 – longer than anywhere in Canada – and is home to 17 universities across 25 communities.
With a rich history of educating, smaller class sizes and affordable tuition rates, Atlantic Canada is a prime destination for entrepreneurs seeking higher education. Here’s our list of some great Atlantic Canadian universities with programming for entrepreneurial students.
Dalhousie University’s support for entrepreneurs has continued to grow. In 2016, Dalhousie announced its plans to open ideaHUB – a new space that will act as an incubator and accelerator to help students interested in entrepreneurship, with a focus on engineering. The hub will bring successful entrepreneurs and recent graduates in to mentor and support students and startups with the hopes of strengthening the local innovation ecosystem.
For undergraduate students looking to augment their studies with entrepreneurial expertise, the university offers a Bachelor of Commerce program with a major in entrepreneurship, and a Bachelor of Management program with a major in entrepreneurship and innovation.
Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship is a driving force behind many of the school’s entrepreneurial initiatives. The centre manages programs and courses like Starting Lean and Innovation – two cross-faculty courses that began in 2012 and are now a part of the Launch Dal program.
Another resource for entrepreneurs on Dalhousie’s campus includes ShiftKey Labs. ShiftKey Labs is an innovation sandbox, established in collaboration with several other Nova Scotian post secondary institutes, that supports early stage software innovation by providing access to networking events, learning opportunities, mentors, researchers, and more.
Dalhousie, in partnership with Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), recently launched CDL-Atlantic. CDL-Atlantic is the East Coast division of the new national innovation accelerator, which uses an objective-based mentoring process that pairs early stage startup teams with established business leaders with the goal of maximizing equity-value creation.
For entrepreneurs in New Brunswick, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) is a great option. UNB was named Canada’s most entrepreneurial university by Startup Canada in 2014, and according to their website, the university houses six entrepreneurial centres and has launched 23 startups over the past two years.
One of the most attractive aspects of UNB for entrepreneurial minds is their Master of Technology Management and Entrepreneurship (MTME) program. During this one year program, students explore their idea’s market potential and learn how to commercialize research with the help of a machine shop, welding facilities and 3D printers.
The university also offers a concentration in entrepreneurship at their Fredericton campus. In addition to academic programs, the university has The Summer Institute – an intensive three-month accelerator for passionate entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that have potential to be a sustainable venture.
UNB integrates education with extra curriculars in a number of ways. The Activator® program is open to second-year students in the MBA program and students in their final year of the BBA program. The program is coordinated by the International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre and offers students an opportunity to gain real-work experience while gaining their concentration in entrepreneurship. Students accepted into the program are matched up with a venture, and lead a team of students to complete tasks related to running a startup – such as create a business plan, identify market opportunities, source startup funds, and more.
The university hosts the BMO Financial Group Apex Business Plan Competition. The competition challenges students to be innovative as they develop and present a business plan to a panel of judges, who select the most promising business plan and award cash prizes to the successful teams.
Acadia University gained recent attention for a certain entrepreneurial alum who has taken the world by storm with his East Coast-inspired brand. The high profile success of Acadia graduate, Alex McLean and his company East Coast Lifestyle has put Acadia’s entrepreneurship support in the spotlight.
A large part of the entrepreneurial activity on Acadia’s campus is driven by the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre (AEC). Earlier this year, AEC was awarded the Entrepreneur Support Award by Startup Canada for their dedication to supporting entrepreneurs. The AEC plays a key role in managing and implementing the LaunchBox program’s initiatives. Launchbox is Acadia University’s innovation sandbox, which helps student entrepreneurs by providing free programming, networking opportunities, access to mentors, working space and competitions.
The AEC also manages the Rural Innovation Centre (RIC) on campus. Acadia recognizes the role small businesses and startups play in growing the economy in rural communities. The RIC aims to support these businesses by functioning as an incubator for new startups so they have the resources necessary to create jobs where they are needed. The RIC also hosts sector development organizations, such as the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute, the Atlantic Wine Institute, and the Acadia Institute for Data Analytics.
Memorial University’s lower tuition rates make this school an enticing choice for cash-strapped entrepreneurs. The university offers a concentration in Small Business/Entrepreneurship for students in the Business Administration program.
The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) promotes entrepreneurship on campus, and supports students, faculty and staff with developing their startup idea and contributes to Newfoundland and Labrador’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. MCE’s programming for Memorial students includes the Entrepreneurial Work Term (EWT) program. The program provides $4,500 for EWT positions from a limited fund, and helps students build the skills, knowledge, and relationships necessary to succeed.
Memorial also has a 16-week Entrepreneurship Training Program (ETP) for graduate students who want to start a business and learn more about entrepreneurship. For students passionate about entrepreneurship, Memorial has a Student Ambassador Team. Student Ambassadors promote entrepreneurship to Memorial students, attend entrepreneurial events, and take trips to experience other entrepreneurial environments.
Memorial is also home to an award winning Enactus team. Enactus is an international organization, with chapters at universities around the world, that encourages student leaders to “create and implement community empowerment projects and business ventures” that have social impact. In 2016, Enactus Memorial was both a national and world champion at Enactus competitions, and the group also won at the national competition in 2017.
At Saint Mary’s University, undergraduate students can take an entrepreneurship major in both the commerce and arts programs. Saint Mary’s also has a Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MTEI) degree. The MTEI program draws on knowledge and skills from a variety of programs, such as management, marketing, economics, and information technology, and combines them with industry best practices to offer relevant learning opportunities designed for technology entrepreneurs.
Saint Mary’s University also provides a number of resources and events for student entrepreneurs. Housed on campus is the Sobey School Business Development Centre (SSBDC). As a division of Saint Mary’s Sobey School of Business, The SSBDC supports entrepreneurs and businesses by connecting them to university resources, and providing consulting services, business training and workshops, as well as offers specialized expertise for First Nations communities.
The SSBDC also manages The Spark Zone – one of Nova Scotia’s innovation sandboxes. The SSBDC and The Spark Zone work together to provide support to student entrepreneurs. The two organizations partner on hosting events, including the annual Starting Point Student Conference. Starting Point is a three-day conference that takes place every February, bringing together entrepreneurial students from across Canada to learn from leaders in the business community and network with like-minded people.
Regardless of which school you choose, there are always ways to leverage your status as a student to accelerate your startup or business. Student entrepreneurs often have access to funding, resources and mentorship that are not available to entrepreneurs outside the post secondary education ecosystem. While higher education may not be for everyone, it is a great option for entrepreneurs eager to learn and want to explore an idea or grow an existing business.
Also published on Medium.