UFV launches Esposito Family Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Dr. Jon Thomas

Fraser Valley – Great minds working together help build great communities. A new research centre focused on innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of the Fraser Valley aims to do just that.

The Esposito Family Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (EFCIE), established through a generous endowment provided by the Esposito family, began operations recently.

Dr. Jon Thomas has been appointed as the Director of EFCIE. He also holds the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Canada-India Partnership Development at UFV and is an associate professor in the UFV School of Business.

“Our centre will work to foster an inclusive, vibrant, and resilient space for innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives for the UFV and Fraser Valley communities,” Thomas said.

He notes that the connection between innovation and society is a unique aspect of the centre.

“Our work is guided by the understanding that innovative technologies impact society and society in turn shapes technological progress. And we invite entrepreneurs, faculty members, students, and community organizations interested in innovation and entrepreneurship to work with us.”

EFCIE’s activities include research, course development, and mentoring both students and local entrepreneurs. Community outreach by the centre includes special events, guest lectures, and projects that explore the interactions between technology, innovation, and society.

Part of the mission of the centre is to help stimulate economic development in the Fraser Valley through building relationships with local entrepreneurs, innovators, and community organizations.

“Our research shows that we have the intellectual capital in the Fraser Valley to come up with great ideas. We want to make sure companies and innovative individuals stay here, grow here, and are supported here,” Thomas said. “Nurturing that intellectual capital will allow communities in the Fraser Valley to pivot to create and embrace new opportunities.”

UFV President Joanne Maclean is excited about this new interdisciplinary research centre.

“The Esposito Family Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will bring together students, faculty, government, industry, and our communities to create an exciting, interdisciplinary space where change and innovation can be embraced and explored. I truly believe the centre will build a social and economic future that is better than the past and I am excited for the ideas that will flourish and commercialize as a result of this space.”

EFCIE has been established through a significant gift by the Esposito family of Abbotsford. Craig Toews, VP External at UFV, has nurtured the relationship with the Esposito family for many years.

“UFV appreciates the strong relationship we’ve developed with the Espositos over the years and we are extremely grateful for the generous gift to the university. The legacy of their gift and entrepreneurial spirit will enable our students to leverage their creativity and innovative ideas to change the world and build a stronger community.”

Faculty associates at this new interdisciplinary research centre currently include researchers and faculty members from UFV’s Biology, Business, Kinesiology, and Sociology departments. Students working on research projects currently come from the Computer Information Systems and Business programs. The Research Office, led by Dr. Garry Fehr, has provided significant support through the start-up phase of the centre. The UFV Alumni Association is also an active partner in the centre.

EFCIE has partnered with the UFV Student Union Society (SUS) and Enactus UFV, a business student organization, to support innovative research by students and faculty members through funding opportunities. The UFV Vice President of Students and the Dean of Science have offered matching support to add to the available funds.

The Innovation Team Grants will assist joint student-faculty teams seeking to solve significant problems facing society.

Innovation team grants will bring faculty mentors and students together and allow them to explore ideas. An innovation team will expand on initial student work, either by developing a working prototype or by assessing the viability of a proposed solution in a more rigorous manner. As part of this process, experts from EFCIE will mentor the student-faculty team in the areas of evaluating market opportunities and guiding validated solutions to society.

A total of $10,000 is available for the General Stream (with $5,000 contributed by the Office of the Vice-President, Students). A total of $5,000 is available for the STEM Stream (contributed by the Faculty of Science).

Grants will be dispersed in amounts varying from approximately $1,000 to $3,000, and can be used for travel (in non-COVID times), materials, and research support for students.

The deadline for grant applications isJanuary 31, 2021.

For more information on the Esposito Family Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and this funding, visit https://www.ufv.ca/innovation-entrepreneurship/ or contact innovate@ufv.ca.

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