From Innovation to impact 

The Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship helps turn ideas developed at McGill into companies that are making the world a better place 
The 2023 Dobson Centre International Fundraising Tour cohort

When looking over the recently released Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship Impact Report it is easy to get dazzled by the numbers.  

Since its establishment in 1988, the Dobson Centre has supported thousands of ventures, among which over 470 startups are still currently active. It helped to raise $3.7 billion in funding. In turn, these companies have created 10,000 jobs in 38 countries in collaboration with 88 universities worldwide. 

Other 2023 numbers worth considering: The Dobson Centre was ranked number 1 university innovation entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world by the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities, and in the world top 5 university business incubators by UBI Global. Pitchbook also rated the Dobson Centre as Canada’s best for developing successful undergraduate female founders for the third consecutive year. Since 2019, 50 per cent of Dobson Centre startups have been co-founded by women. 

Supporting and promoting McGill innovation 

Marie-Josée Lamothe

But, impressive as those numbers are, they don’t tell the whole Dobson Centre story. 

“More than anything, we aim to nurture McGill’s creativity and innovation,” explains Marie-Josée Lamothe, Academic & Executive Director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship. 

“When I joined in 2019, I witnessed remarkable innovation at McGill. However, some remained untapped due to insufficient funding and limited business networking opportunities. There were brilliant ideas conceived by McGill students and professors that unfortunately remained at the conceptual stage,” Lamothe reflects. 

“This is where the Dobson Centre steps in. Our expertise lies in business. Our mission is to facilitate the commercialization of these remarkable ideas and assist them in realizing their full potential.” 

From ideas to impact 

Founded in 1988 by the late John Dobson, BCom’49, the Centre supports entrepreneurs from McGill’s 12 faculties, 18 schools, and 29 research centers as they seek to build innovative companies with a purpose. 

The Dobson Centre lists its three core principals as: 

  • Sustaining entrepreneurial innovation during its pivotal seed fundraising phase 
  • Providing increased support to ventures in the realms of health and sustainability  
  • Cultivating global partnerships to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is inclusive, diverse, and purposeful 

Participants are supported along every stage of the entrepreneurial journey, from the ideation stage through to the funding rounds. Participants have access to a wide network of resources, 14 specialized learning pathways, and numerous mentorship opportunities – mostly involving successful McGill alumni.  

Global outlook rooted in Quebec 

When Lamothe took the reins of the Dobson Centre in 2019, one of her first steps was to establish strong partnerships with both private and public entities, including venture capital firms and the provincial government. 

These partnerships have proven to be extremely fruitful. Dobson Centre entrepreneurs are now frequently part of Québec delegations that travel around the world to meet with potential investors.  

“It is a mutually beneficial partnership,” says Lamothe. “Our entrepreneurs participating in our international funding tour benefit from Investissement Québec’s network and support. In turn, our startups bring international funds back to Quebec – to grow in Quebec.” 

Clearly, investors are impressed. From 1988 to 2019, Dobson Centre startups raised some $400 million. Four years later, that number has jumped to $3.7 billion.  

Quebec roots 

The Dobson Centre’s success has not gone unnoticed by other branches of the Quebec government.  

In 2023, the Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation, et de l’Énergie selected the Dobson Centre as one of the five Quebec incubators to receive a $500,000 grant per year for the next three years to further its efforts in life sciences.  

So, while Dobson’s reach is undeniably global, its roots are planted firmly in Quebec. Of those 470+ active startups supported by Dobson Centre, 354 are headquartered within the province. Those Quebec-based companies have created over 4,000 jobs and raised more than $2 billion. 

Core values 

Lamothe stresses that core values are key to the Dobson Centre’s success.  

“Every innovation that we support through to the journey of becoming a company must serve a purpose,” she says. “One reason we are hyper focused on the ideas coming out of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences is because we believe that those innovations will lead to global betterment. 

“Obviously, sustainability is another important stream for us,” says Lamothe. “At McGill, we have a growing community of students who are coming forward with innovations that are driven by sustainability. We are very proud to say we have startups that contribute to each one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 

“Changemakers and Innovators bring positivity,” says Lamothe. “We’re here to promote that positivity in practical, meaningful ways.” 

Read the Impact Report in English or French


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