Yesterday, the Government of Ontario formally announced their funding of thousands of student internships through Mitacs. The announcement was made during a press conference held by the Honourable Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities, and featured the Honourable Doug Downey, Attorney General of Ontario, and John Hepburn, CEO of Mitacs. As Principal Investigator of 3 projects in the inaugural year of Mitacs’ Business Strategy Internship (BSI) Program, Prof Pina D’Agostino was also invited to be part of the festivities, along with Naseem Bawa, General Counsel for InteraXon Inc., and Androu Waheeb, 1L IP Innovation Clinic Fellow who will complete a BSI at InteraXon this summer.
Minister Romano announced that the Government has granted $39.5 million to Mitacs to fund internships that give students, post-doctoral researchers, and businesses more hands-on, real world experience in the field of their choice. Of the hundreds of internships offered across the country, roughly 100 are in their intellectual property stream.
Ministers Romano and Downey repeatedly stressed the importance of investing in Ontario IP rightsholders and empowering SMEs to take advantage of the intangible economy. In particular, Minister Romano pointed out that foreign entities take advantage of Ontario’s IP resources which remain inaccessible for local innovators. As such, this internship is not only an important investment for potential rightsholders, but also for students who will be business-owners commercializing IP and lawyers protecting their rights.
Mitacs CEO John Hepburn stressed the importance of this new collaboration in helping businesses to succeed at every stage of their journey. In the context of Mitacs’ goal of promoting growth and innovation in Canada, Mr. Hepburn introduced the goal of the BSI program: helping SMEs to address specific needs in order to pivot their businesses in response to the pandemic. In particular, because IP literacy is crucial in the early stages of a business, many student interns will offer valuable IP insight (with academic supervision) to help SMEs develop IP strategy in the initial stages of their business.
Prof D’Agostino spoke for the huge impact that this program will have on the students involved and the experience that it offers for them. After a quick but forceful plug for IP Innovation Clinic’s work in supporting IP strategy for SMEs to date, she highlighted our students’ growing need for employment opportunities like this. The combination of education with intention and work with grassroots organizations in turn empowers the Canadian economy.
Naseem Bawa briefly spoke about InteraXon Inc’s strategic IP investments protecting a wide range of their innovations, and the importance of protecting IP for small businesses. Businesses, according to Naseem, need a layered approach to IP that goes beyond registering it: they need support to enhance, protect, and strategically enforce their IP rights. This takes time and resources, but is critical for the future of both Canada and its companies, further stressing the impact of programs like this. Androu Waheeb rounded out the speakers, expressing his sincere gratitude for this opportunity and the ways in which it will prepare him to follow his dream of becoming an IP lawyer.
Androu is one of three IP Innovation Clinic Fellows completing a BSI this summer. We would like to thank the Government of Ontario and Mitacs for supporting this program and our incredible students, whom we wish the best of luck in their internships!