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Montreal’s John Dobson Foundation empowers research-driven startups

$500,000 gift to the Campaign for Concordia strengthens Quebec’s innovation economy
December 22, 2022
By Ian Harrison, BComm 01

The John Dobson Foundation, a long-time champion of entrepreneurial education and a major donor to the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen Now, has given $500,000 to support researchers as they bridge the gap between academia and the marketplace.

The gift from the Montreal-based foundation will establish two new initiatives:

  • The Researchers in Entrepreneurship Network, which will annually provide 30 Quebec-based researchers with $1,000 to access skill-development opportunities and events organized by Canada’s scientific startup community.
  • The Dobson Scientific Venture Award, which will provide up to $67,000 in annual financial assistance to help startup-minded researchers commercialize their ideas.

The Dobson Scientific Venture Award will be open to startup postdocs participating in Concordia’s Scientific Venture Program (SVP). A first in Canada, the SVP helps research-based innovators in science, health, agri-food, cybersecurity, cleantech and more transform their ideas into scalable business models.

“The John Dobson Foundation has made a number of exceptional commitments to encourage entrepreneurship throughout Quebec and Canada,” says Graham Carr, Concordia’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “This support has contributed to a culture of innovation that has had significant economic impact.

“Concordia is grateful to have such a visionary partner as we cultivate meaningful experiential learning programs for our students, and facilitate rewarding opportunities for our researchers to generate new discoveries for the benefit of society.”

WATCH: Learn more about the John Dobson Foundation’s mission and support at Concordia.

Says Randall W. Kelly, BComm 78, chairman of the John Dobson Foundation and chief executive officer and chief investment officer of Formula Growth Limited: “John Dobson’s faith in the power of innovation to help address society’s most urgent challenges drives much of our foundation’s work. This gift is an investment in the business pioneers of tomorrow, and in Concordia’s efforts to develop an unprecedented research-to-marketplace model.

“We’re particularly proud of the fact that more than 50 per cent of the Researchers in  Entrepreneurship Network funding will be offered to women in research, which will embolden more diversity and leading-edge breakthroughs in scientific entrepreneurship.”

WATCH: Concordians describe the significance of the John Dobson Foundation’s gift.

Diana Horqque Ratto

The SVP was created in 2021 by two members of Concordia’s startup community: District 3 Innovation Hub and non-profit venture builder V1 Studio.

Open to Quebec-based PhD candidates, the SVP offers participants:

  • An annual stipend of $45,000
  • Access to research facilities
  • Access to incubator programs and mentors
  • A unique customized journey to help researchers during every stage of building their scientific startup.

The total value of the two-year program is estimated at $142,000 per participant. Startup founders in the SVP retain ownership and all intellectual-property rights connected to their business developed during the duration of the program.

Says V1 Studio’s executive director, Diana Horqque Ratto, BFA 14, MBA 21: “We believe that there is huge untapped potential within our research community, whose members have a strong desire to apply years of work to benefit society at large, and that a cultural shift is taking place to produce the next generation of scientific entrepreneurs.”

Xavier-Henri Hervé

Adds Xavier-Henri Hervé, BEng 87, DSc 11, co-founder of V1 Studio and co-founder and executive director of District 3 Innovation Hub: “We need to better support PhDs so that their valuable research doesn’t sit on the shelf. They have the potential to make a positive global impact. Supporting their startup journey will help to spur an innovation-driven economy and help to mitigate brain drain in Montreal and Quebec.”

The late John William Dobson, LLD 02, was one of Canada’s most successful and innovative money managers. As a philanthropist, the founder and chairman of Formula Growth Limited contributed to a number of advances in entrepreneurship-focused education, most notably through his foundation’s support for the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Youth Employment Services Foundation of Montreal, Junior Achievement, Enactus Canada and the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship at McGill University.

“With this new gift of $500,000, the foundation has built on John Dobson’s tremendous legacy of education-based philanthropy and energized a truly novel program tailored to the specific needs of PhD-led scientific startups,” says Paul Chesser, BA 94, GrDip 97, vice-president of Advancement. “We thank the John Dobson Foundation for this remarkable support.”

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