The McGill Engine Centre revs up

McGill Engine develops the University's next generation of technological innovators and entrepreneurs
From l to r: Katya Marc, Associate Director, McGill Engine; Pasquale Di Pierro, Faculty of Engineering FAB Member; Ram Panda, Chair, McGill Board of Governors; Benoit Boulet, Associate Dean (Research & Innovation), Director, McGill Engine; Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor; Jim Nicell, Dean of Faculty of Engineering; Elizabeth Lallemand, Community Manager, McGill Engine

For Jim Nicell, the location of the new McGill Engine Centre couldn’t be more perfect.

Located on the first floor of the Frank Dawson Adams Building, the Engine Centre is “right at the corner of one of the most high-traffic corridors in the entire University,” said Nicell, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. “It literally is a place where collisions are the most likely, and where unexpected encounters can lead to all kinds of new and unforeseen collaborations.

“Indeed, it is our hope that the visibility of the Centre will encourage people from across McGill to get involved in technological innovation. We hope the Centre rapidly becomes a hive of activity for our students, professors and their collaborators.”

Nicell was addressing a crowd of some 100 students, professors and staff who had gathered for the October 8 opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the McGill Engine, the new physical space that houses the Faculty of Engineering’s technological innovation and entrepreneurship centre. Principal Suzanne Fortier and Chair of the Board of Governors Ram Panda were also on hand to participate in the launch.

Developing the next generation of technological innovators and entrepreneurs

Partnering with the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Office of Innovation and Partnerships, McGill Engine develops McGill’s next generation of technological innovators and entrepreneurs by supporting student teams with technologically-based projects, helping commercialize research results; and building R&D collaborations with industry and professors and their research teams. “How we do this is through project funding and experiential learning, advising and coaching, mentorship, and networking and connecting opportunities,” said Nicell.

The Faculty’s technological innovation and entrepreneurship activities initially began with a generous gift from the late William Seath, a Mechanical Engineering alumnus. Over the years, more alumni and friends of the Faculty joined on, offering both their financial support and mentorship in support of technological innovation and entrepreneurship, culminating in the establishment of the Engine initiative in 2013.

Since its inception, McGill Engine has advised and coached over 100 students and professors per year, reviewed over 110 project applications, supported 45 projects/startups in the form of funding and personalized mentorship, and distributed over $500,000 in the form of grants, awards, prizes and fellowships. With the establishment of this physical space, it is now poised to expand its activities considerably, not only in the Faculty but through engagement with the whole university community.

Applying classroom concepts to the real world

Nicell emphasized how McGill Engine helps students take lessons learned in the classroom and research from their labs, and apply them outside the Roddick Gates. “Engine encourages and enables students to take their ideas beyond the conceptual stage and bring them to life. It is about putting the students in control of the process, and making them the accountable owners of their concepts. In addition, working in partnership with industry for R&D accelerates technological innovation in order to create value for society.

“The Made by McGill Campaign which launched just last month has a goal at the University and Faculty level of helping to prepare future-ready students,” he said. “What better way to do that than by giving students direct responsibility of their own career paths by providing them with the resources and networks that they need to realize their dreams?”