01Amazing what a strategically targeted funding program can accomplish.

Mitacs’ internship programs in Canada are:

  • Providing research experience for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows (in all disciplines) at Canadian universities
  • Putting Canadian university expertise to work producing research and solutions for Canadian industry
  • Training highly educated students to work in the private sector
  • Sending Canadian students abroad to collaborate with international universities and companies to broaden their experience and expand their global networks
  • Encouraging new PhDs from Canadian universities to start their own businesses

Mitacs, says Lauren Mercier, Mitacs and TEC Business Development Specialist, is doing all the above and more.

Founded in 1999 as a federally funded Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence focusing on applied and industrial research in math and related disciplines, Mitacs has evolved into a not-for-profit organization that provides solutions to the needs of the Canadian innovation ecosystem in all academic disciplines.

While the number of master’s and PhD students from Canadian universities has been growing, The Conference Board of Canada has reported a smaller percentage have gone on to academic careers than has been the case in the past.

Students were graduating with highly specialized master’s and PhD degrees, but often lacked personal and business skills needed to employment outside the university environment. Those who did enter the workplace may have lacked the training and skills to build bridges between the academic and non-academic communities.

Finally, not enough Canadian students were studying abroad and creating the international networks they could draw on as they moved into leadership positions within Canada.

Mitacs, explains Mercier, has three programs addressed the needs articulated above.

The Mitacs Accelerate program matches funding from a for-profit or eligible not-for-profit organization to share the cost of a research project between graduate students and/or postdoctoral fellows, faculty supervisors, and the organization. “The student is being paid and is gaining industry-related experience as part of their studies,” says Mercier.

The Mitacs Elevate program provides funding and customized professional development training to postdoctoral fellows, as they lead two-year research projects with partner organizations. “Industry is looking for well-rounded people with both soft and technical skills,” says Mercier.

Mitacs Globalink provides international initiatives for students to do research at universities in Mitacs’ partner countries. Graduate students can also conduct research with for-profit companies around the world. The program also brings international students from select partner countries to work on research projects at Canadian universities. “Globalink participants can build world-wide networks and get international experience,” says Mercier.

Mitacs has partnered with TEC Edmonton to be proactive in the university community, urging graduates to explore private-sector and entrepreneurial options.  TEC Edmonton has long been a matchmaker between the University of Alberta and Albertan business, finding and bringing university expertise to industrial research challenges.

The fruits of such collaboration are already on display. In 2014, Mitacs engaged with over 900 different industry partners country-wide, brought over $1.5 million to the University of Alberta, and more importantly provided over 100 internships for U of A trainees to build their collaborative research experiences.

“TEC Edmonton has the network and the ties to both the University of Alberta research community and those businesses in the region with applied research needs,” says Mercier. “Mitacs programs are open to all disciplines at the University — we have projects in social sciences, humanities, and arts. We partner with not-for-profit organizations as well as businesses.”