Silicon Valley North #17 Mar'00

The Way I See Itů by Michael Volker

It's About T.I.M.E. - SFU's Innovation Initiative

Any technology CEO will tell you that people, new ideas and technologies can make the difference between innovative companies and also-rans.

One of the most common problems facing technology companies is the need for talent. Recruiting is becoming increasingly challenging. Both management and technical people are in short supply. Providing on-going education and skills development for current employees keeps companies innovative and goes a long way toward the retention of this valuable resource.

Enter the TIME Centre. TIME, which stands for Technology, Innovation, Management and Entrepreneurship, is an initiative of Simon Fraser University. The TIME Centre, a brand-new facility on the seventh floor at its downtown Harbour Centre campus, aims to meet these challenges.

I have always been amazed at what appears to be a gap between the management and technical disciplines. Business schools produce graduates with training in finance, marketing, and management but how many of these have latched onto jobs in the high tech field? Many B-schools are offering special courses and programs for technology management and many engineering faculties are providing some management subject matter. TIME brings these two disciplines together.

The Faculty of Business and the Faculty of Applied Sciences along with some applied research groups (e.g. Telelearning, New Media,  Poly Math) are intent on forming a partnership with the corporate sector to more effectively address their needs - especially with respect to developing their human capital.

John Waterhouse, Dean of Business, sees TIME as the "teaching hospital" analogy. Faculty and students work with companies on real issues and problems. Not only does this provide a tangible learning experience for the students, but it also provides companies with an opportunity to screen prospective employees. His recently launched Management of Technology MBA is a fast-track route for managers and entrepreneurs to obtain a degree.

On the technical side, Ron Marteniuk, Dean of Applied Sciences is responding to industry needs by providing much-needed education and training in high-demand disciplines. The "Object Technology Program" carefully selects applicants who demonstrate an aptitude in software development. Programs such as this are being developed in consultation with industry and they focus on building the knowledge and skills needed by the rapidly expanding technology sector. Companies are lining up to hire these grads.

As well as training of management and technical human resources, the TIME Centre offers a host of services for the business and entrepreneurial communities. 

One of the most unique features of the TIME Centre is the airport-style Business Centre.  This first class facility has been carefully designed for business people to use between meetings downtown, be it to check email, to do some work, or to have a meeting. Space, ranging from small meeting rooms to executive boardrooms and larger presentation rooms, is available for companies and entrepreneurs. The idea behind this service is to encourage interaction among the users of the facility and between the SFU tenants in the TIME Centre and the business representatives frequenting the Business Centre.

A technology transfer office will be staffed with business professionals who are both familiar with the needs of industry and the research capabilities and resources of the university in order to facilitate technology transfer and contract research initiatives.

The TIME Centre would not be complete without a company incubator. TIME Ventures offers entrepreneurs both real and virtual facilities for getting a fast start. Fully equipped office space is available on a full-time or occasional-use basis. Mentoring, business planning, and ties to the Angel network are all part of the package. A big plus for tenants is the fact that TIME is located at BC's main Internet hub, operated by BCNet.

An industry advisory board will provide input and direction to TIME. An "innovation roundtable" and several other initiatives are in the planning sessions.

The way I see it, the most important ingredients of SFU's TIME Centre are its entrepreneurial flair, and its ties to the business community.



Michael Volker is a high technology entrepreneur and director of Simon Fraser U's University/Industry Liaison Office. He is a former executive director of the BC Advanced Systems Institute and is chair of the Vancouver Enterprise Forum. He may be reached at mike@risktaker.com.

Copyright, 2000.