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Innovation centre opens in heart of Vancouver’s startup community

Beedie’s new innovation centre is located at 308 West Hastings St. in Vancouver, close to Gastown, the modern city’s startup quarter.

Josh Kho

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

At an historic intersection in Vancouver, a new six-storey building epitomizes a trend: live-work-study spaces designed to foster innovation and business startups.

The $7-million building, named the Charles Chang Innovation Centre and opened last month by Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business, combines four floors (52 rooms) of graduate student rental housing, a second-floor innovation and technology space for teaching and learning, and a ground-floor cafe for informal networking among budding entrepreneurs.

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"This is a phenomenal location in terms of its [historic] significance, and it is in the middle of one of the more socially innovative parts of town," says Kirk Hill, assistant dean of external relations at Beedie.

Overlooking Victory Square with links to the founding of Vancouver, the West Hastings Street building is close to Gastown, the modern city's startup quarter, and to the drug- and crime-ravaged Downtown Eastside.

In 2013, Vancouver developer Matthew Carter, principal of MGC Projects, and two equity partners approached then-Beedie-dean Daniel Shapiro about the potential to build a multiuse downtown facility. Collaborating with Beedie on academic purpose and design, the developers purchased the site, completed construction of the building and sold it to the university this year.

Mr. Carter is also president of Great Northern Way Trust, a partnership of SFU and three other Vancouver-based postsecondary institutions that are developing a 14-acre parcel of land southeast of downtown as a live-work district for students, digital media companies and new businesses. The site, where the academic partners' Centre for Digital Media currently offers a graduate degree program, is the future home of a relocated Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

As with Great Northern Way, the Beedie building provides spaces for interaction among students, professors, entrepreneurs and community groups.

For example, the second floor will house RADIUS (Radical Ideas Useful to Society), the school's social innovation lab and venture incubator that works with Downtown Eastside community groups and others to solve the neighbourhood's social and economic challenges.

Graduate students (from Beedie and other SFU master programs) who live in the building can take classes in the social innovation lab and also meet with each other, professors, businesses and community groups in the ground-floor cafe.

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"It creates a more engaged student experience, particularly for students coming from out of town," says Mr. Carter.

In effect, the building becomes a medium to nurture ideas hatched inside and outside of the classroom, says Mr. Hill.

"There is a crossover, more and more, between technology and social innovation," he says. "A lot of social innovation is being delivered through new technology, or the impact of technology has social ramifications."

He adds: "That crossover is hard to match."

Survey: Global MBA market continues to evolve

Since the 2008 financial crisis that gave MBA graduates a bad name, grim forecasts of the degree's demise have proven premature at best.

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But a new report on prospective MBA students confirms that the graduate business degree – "a long way from its deathbed," according to the authors – is experiencing significant changes in three ways:

– Flow of applicants (down in North America, up elsewhere).

– Programs offered (expansion of specialty degrees).

– Modes of delivery (rise in online and part-time formats).

In a further sign of the evolving market, one of five students now looks to an MBA as a tool to start a business, with entrepreneurship rated the fifth most valuable content in a degree, up from 10th in last year's survey.

"Don't look back, look forward," says Andrew Crisp, co-founder of CarringtonCrisp, a London-based education marketing and consulting firm, of the message of the survey's findings for Canadian business schools.

"If you rely on delivering an MBA both in terms of the marketing to students and the content of the program in the ways you have always done it, you will miss out on an enormous opportunity," says Mr. Crisp. "Canada is well-placed internationally, but it has to have the right offer in terms of the programs if it is going to attract students from around the world."

Citing Britain's post-Brexit move to remove the welcome mat for international students and limit work visas – announced by Home Secretary Amber Rudd this month – Mr. Crisp sees opportunities for Canadian schools to raise their profile with qualified overseas candidates.

But success in reaching applicants, cautions Mr. Crisp, will be tied to factors that range from the academic quality of the degree to inspired use of social media, especially Google and LinkedIn.

The annual survey of 1,000 prospective MBA candidates in 85 countries, including from Canada, was conducted in late 2015 with support from the European Management Development Network, an accrediting body.

Newfoundland business students harvest a global prize

Memorial University's faculty of business students won this year's Enactus World Cup for the "garden-in-a-box project" they developed that employs homeless youth and enables residents in rural and remote areas to grow their own fresh produce.

Enactus, a global non-profit organization that promotes entrepreneurial ideas for social good, held its competition in Toronto last month, with the Memorial team defeating counterparts from 33 countries.

First prize carries no cash award, but Memorial Enactus chapter president Emily Bland stated via e-mail that, since the win, "numerous people" have expressed interest in funding and partnership proposals to expand "Project Sucseed."

Memorial students last won the Enactus World Cup for Canada in 2008.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here.

Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net

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