Universities and economic development: Students are worth more than they think (or will ever know)

It is doubtful that in the midst of one of countless all-nighters that a stressed, exhausted university student will, suddenly and triumphantly, have an epiphany about what he’s worth. I’m not talking about worth in terms one’s metaphysical acknowledgment of being a human being, nor the realization of the value  generated from self-esteem — rather, the  “worth” I’m talking about is the value of the student as “human capital”.

Students, through technological development and interaction with technology, serve as an active agent in the connection between universities and various industries. In doing so, students have become an essential element in the development of various industries, and as such can be responsible for increasing the growth of the economy.

Taking it a step further, ultimately university students can be said to be catalysts in improving the quality and state of the country as a whole and in bringing, not just the nation but the world into a bright new age of glory and prosperity (I may be exaggerating a bit). The point is though, that university students have real value: the research and studies performed by students when used in business and industrial applications have proven to be effective in increasing economic growth, not just for the companies involved but for the country itself. Some of this research can be found in the recent paper, “Connecting the Dots Between University Research and Industrial Innovation” (PDF) by Jorge Niosi, with commentaries by MaRS Board member, Indira V. Samarasekera and MaRS CEO, Ilse Treurnicht.

Still, many industries prefer to use other businesses for their technological and scientific sources simply because it is what they have always done. University research is considered “unstable” and not concrete enough to apply to their work, though it is only a matter of time before realization hits and the information and knowledge from universities is fully utilized. It is as a friend of mine, Mr. Noordeen, from the University of Calgary says: “All our work for a few credits, no credit for all our work.”  It’s the disheartening reality for many university students.

However, we at MaRS recognize students and your unsung vigilance and go a step further to offer current students, like myself, the ability to to be a part of an organization that allows for creative and imaginative growth through involvement and interaction in the workforce.

Isn’t it time your company did the same?