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Advantage, Waterloo


Toronto has more university grads per capita than the Waterloo Region. Roughly 34 per cent of Torontonians belong to the 'creative class' of thinkers and artists, to Waterloo's 28 per cent. Yet the city that brought us the BlackBerry continues to outsmart Toronto. Anthony Reinhart explains why.


Anthony Reinhart
Waterloo, Ont. — From Saturday's Globe and Mail - http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/advantage-waterloo/article1205009/
Last updated on Monday, Jul. 06, 2009 10:28AM EDT


It was a valiant attempt to get the world's attention: 1,623 guitarists in Yonge-Dundas Square, backed by a band called Heartbroken, strumming Neil Young's Helpless in a failed bid to set a world record.

As the final notes of Mr. Young's analog classic floated skyward, Toronto's digitally minded neighbours down the 401 in Waterloo were preparing to take yet another leap into the future, in nearby Stratford, at a conference called Canada 3.0.

It was a coincidence, but one that symbolized an inconvenient truth for Toronto – that when it comes to smart-city prestige, little Waterloo has been eating the big city's lunch. And if that lunch had a name, it would be Startup Salad with BlackBerry Vinaigrette.

Sure, some of the world's best biomedical minds work in Toronto's MaRS Centre and hospitals. But wee Waterloo, with both feet planted on Earth, is getting better public traction with 500 tech companies, led by global juggernaut Research In Motion and its high-minded institutional spinoffs.

On the Waterloo corner where Seagram's once made whisky, RIM co-chief executive officer Jim Balsillie is building a sober new School of International Affairs behind his seven-year-old Centre for International Governance Innovation. Across the street is the world-class Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, endowed by RIM president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, who also helped fund the University of Waterloo's new Institute for Quantum Computing.

Down the road in Kitchener, meanwhile, on a corner where Uniroyal made tires, UW's new school of pharmacy anchors a health sciences campus that will train medical students from Hamilton's McMaster University.

How could this be? Here's what the experts said.

Waterloo = Avis, Toronto = Hertz

“If you're already the best, you don't have to work hard,” Thomas Homer-Dixon, an author and academic formerly of the University of Toronto, wrote in an e-mail. He now teaches at UW and occupies a research chair at the new Balsillie School.

The tale of the Toronto-Waterloo difference, he said, can be told by its universities. “The University of Toronto's biggest handicap is that it believes it's the best. The result is pervasive complacency and flabbiness,” Dr. Homer-Dixon wrote. “UW has, in contrast, an ‘Avis complex': it doesn't believe it's the best, so it's constantly trying harder, and the results are visible every day.”

Roger Martin, dean of U of T's Rotman School of Management, agreed there's something to this.

“I think it gets back to ‘That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger,'” said Mr. Martin, a product of rural Regional Municipality of Waterloowith 10 generations of Mennonite blood behind him. “Having to fight hard for your place in the world has a benefit.”

Statistics confirm Waterloo's underdog status, at least when paired with its twin city, Kitchener. By his Rotman colleague Richard Florida's definition, 34.3 per cent of Torontonians belong to the “creative class,” while just 27.9 per cent of Kitchener-Waterloo residents do. Also, Toronto has more university grads, at 30 per cent to K-W's 21.

“However, there's an interesting counter to that,” Mr. Martin said. “If you ask about patents per 10,000 employees, Toronto is 1.09, and guess what? K-W is 2.50.” This “ridiculous gap” suggests “there's something in the water in Waterloo that causes them to make much more of much less.”

Smells like old spirits

“What's in the water in Waterloo is whisky,” said UW president David Johnston. He's only half-joking. When the university opened in 1957, Seagram's had been pumping out booze for 100 years, having survived Prohibition (they happily supplied bootleggers). It was the world's largest distillery and Waterloo's biggest business. A brewery sat nearby.

Unlike others across Ontario, residents here solidly opposed Prohibition, and not merely to protect jobs. “They're different kind of people; they don't fit into the kind of profile you would expect of, say, Toronto or the other Anglo-Canadian cities,” said John English, a historian, author and executive director of the Centre for International Governance Innovation. The evidence is all around him: CIGI sits in the former Seagram Museum, amid old barrels and racks.

Founded in the early 1800s by German-speaking Mennonite pioneers from Pennsylvania, Kitchener (named Berlin before 1916) and Waterloo drew subsequent waves of German immigrants, assuring a place outside the mainstream. Their prosperity in spite of obscurity – factories turned out everything from buttons and tires to furniture and meat – only spurred them on.



Mennonites in horse-drawn carriages are a common sight in the Waterloo Region. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)


In the 1950s postwar boom, local industries needed engineers and technicians. Gerald Hagey, head of a Lutheran-affiliated college, rallied business leaders behind a new University of Waterloo, based on a maverick “co-operative program,” where students alternate between the classroom and paid work. UW's co-op program, since copied elsewhere, is the world's largest.

Professors and students were allowed to own and patent their discoveries, which gave rise to many of the 500 tech companies that dot Waterloo region. The first UW spinoff was Watcom, a software firm founded in 1981 by a handful of students and their professor, Wes Graham, whose pioneering efforts paved the way for the likes of RIM and Open Text.

The result was an upward spiral that draws the world's best minds to Waterloo to study, start companies, hire more UW grads and give back to the university.

‘Toronto is Versace. Waterloo is Armani.'

So says Malcolm Gladwell, who grew up in rural Waterloo not far from Roger Martin, studied at U of T and found fame as a pop sociologist with The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2005), and Outliers (2008).

Toronto's flash contrasted with Waterloo's understated elegance is one difference that illuminates Waterloo's place atop the smart-city consciousness, Mr. Gladwell suggested in a metaphor-laden e-mail reply to The Globe and Mail.

“Toronto is Trotsky, who spent a whole lot of time, let's not forget, playing chess in Vienna's café central,” he wrote. “Waterloo is Marx, who spent his days holed up in the British Museum writing a really, really long, really really serious book that almost no one has ever finished. I'm guessing Trotsky got the girls. But Marx? Definitely smarter.”

At a joint appearance at U of T last fall, Mr. Gladwell and Mr. Martin talked about how their inauspicious Waterloo roots blossomed into high-flying careers. Neither sprang from privilege, but from pragmatism – hard work, luck, and the family and community factors that Mr. Gladwell cites in Outliers as keystones of success. “If our parents had been millionaires, neither of us would be up here right now,” he told the crowd.

There's no shortage of millionaires in Waterloo, but a visitor would be hard-pressed to pick one from the Saturday-morning crowds at the farmers' market or the Home Depot, both of which feature hitching sheds for horse-drawn Mennonite buggies.

“I can't think of any ostentatious leader in this community,” said Dave Caputo, president and CEO of Sandvine, which makes broadband networking software and equipment. Mr. Caputo started Sandvine in 2001 after his former Waterloo employer, PixStream, was gobbled by Cisco Systems for $554-million.

“David Johnston, I suspect, is the greatest university president on the planet,” Mr. Caputo said. “And you can call him up and go for lunch with him.”

Humility good. Hubris bad.

Mr. Johnston, who took the reins at UW in 1999, is a lawyer who studied at Harvard, Cambridge and Queen's, holds honorary doctorates from 12 universities and has authored or co-written a dozen books.

He also lives in the manure-scented countryside, on a farm surrounded by Mennonites.

“That's why I drive a black Volvo; I'm showing my respect to my Mennonite neighbours,” Mr. Johnston quipped. “I do drive a car but it's black and [has] no chrome.”

This week, he piloted the Volvo along back roads to Stratford for the Canada 3.0 conference, where UW and Open Text are developing a digital media institute. He passed fieldstone farmhouses that sum up the Waterloo ethic.

“You know, the Mennonites would build these quite magnificent stone houses, but they put stucco over the facing side of the first level,” he said. “That's the Mennonites saying, ‘You don't show off before God; if you're lucky enough to have a stone house, put a coat of stucco on it so it doesn't stand out.'”

A similar humility flavours business and community life here, Mr. Johnston said.

“You don't trip over your ego, and it establishes a pragmatism as opposed to airs,” he said. “I mean, you're judged on what you do rather than what you say or how you dress.”

Gianni Versace may have had the more flamboyant fashions, but as Mr. English of CIGI pointed out, “He's also dead.”

The Mennonites also raise barns for each other, as Mr. Johnston is fond of mentioning in speeches. Mr. Caputo said the image of “people on the roof, rolling up their sleeves, swinging the hammer” applies well to Waterloo's tech companies, who network under Communitech, a non-profit umbrella group.

Goodbye, hard drive

Iain Klugman, Communitech president, said Waterloo region's easy size (500,000 people, including 120,000 in Waterloo, where much of the tech industry is clustered) is a clear advantage.

“We get asked a lot, why can't we come [to Toronto] and run what we run here,” he said, “and I say it would be too difficult. The beauty of this area is … you can get your arms around things here.” Including your family.

“Let's see, I left my house at about 9:52 for this 10 o'clock meeting, and I just moved out into the sticks,” Mr. Caputo said. “You can't overestimate the power of the short commute.”

While studying computer science at York University and getting his MBA at the University of Toronto 20 years ago, Mr. Caputo “loved every minute” of his big-city experience. “When I first moved here, I used to go back to Toronto every weekend, and then a little thing happened called kids,” he said.

While tech employees in Waterloo are as prone to long hours as Toronto workers, the shorter commute – to a house that costs a third of what it might in Toronto – gives Waterloo added appeal.

As dean of Toronto's prestigious business school, Mr. Martin surely can't bring himself to say wee Waterloo is smarter than his adopted city, but he will concede one point.

“In Toronto and in every big city, there's this sort of background hum,” he said. “There, whenever I go, I sleep like a baby, because it's back to the quiet that I was used to for the first 18 years of my life.”

And there's no one strumming Helpless .
 

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If the area / university wasn't so depressing, perhaps more students would decide to take graduate studies at UW. Without graduate studies, there's barely any academic breakthroughs since innovative research is very limited. This is why UW is ranked so low in international rankings (and deservedly so). Without the co-op program, there is nothing that distinguishes UW from the others and the academic side of the university is lacklustre IMO.

Instead, Waterloo will relegated to mostly technology related discoveries in the private sector.
 

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Hey, WI, you have been missing in action here for some time! Welcome back! When is KW's Pride this year?
Technically this should be in the Ontario section, but we'll let people read it as it is pretty interesting.
Thank-you. KW's pride week was May 31 - June 6, with the largest day of celebration being the 6th at Victoria Park. Nowhere near the size of Toronto's, but it was the largest local turn-out so far at 6,000 ppl, and it can still be quite fun. You should come check it out next year when we're hoping to hit 10K, there will even be GO Transit to the area by then (buses starting in October).

If the area / university wasn't so depressing, perhaps more students would decide to take graduate studies at UW. Without graduate studies, there's barely any academic breakthroughs since innovative research is very limited. This is why UW is ranked so low in international rankings (and deservedly so). Without the co-op program, there is nothing that distinguishes UW from the others and the academic side of the university is lacklustre IMO.
Instead, Waterloo will relegated to mostly technology related discoveries in the private sector.
UW's 6th decade plan calls to triple the amount of graduate students. This is still a developing university, and as it continues to grow there will be a much larger push into those areas. Where will the money come from to fund this growth?:

UW raises $515M, almost doubling fundraising goal
June 27, 2009
Luisa D'Amato, RECORD STAFF - WATERLOO
http://news.therecord.com/article/560407


Linda Kieswetter, associate vice-president of development at University of Waterloo, stands on a balcony overlooking the $160-million dollar quantum-nano centre building which is under construction.

The University of Waterloo has raised $515 million in its latest fundraising campaign, almost double its goal of $260 million.

President David Johnston says the money -- raised since 2004 -- has been "transformational" for the university.

For example:

University of Waterloo now has more researchers and students in quantum computing than any other university in the world, thanks to a gift of more than $100 million by Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis.

With $77 million donated for scholarships during the campaign, University of Waterloo now gives a higher proportion of its operating budget to student aid than any other university in the country.

Their gift will help build a $160-million research building for quantum computing and nanotechnology. That in turn will attract more experts and put Canada at the forefront of this revolutionary new discipline.

Quantum computing offers better and faster ways to store, transmit and protect information.

"Ten years ago, our student aid would have been in the middle of the pack," Johnston said.

But now, UW is "the friendliest place in the country to say, 'Come and get a degree,' " Johnston said. "It's affordable."

UW has an operating budget of $650 million a year, and more than 11 per cent is spent on student aid. Half the students graduate debt-free, the university says.

Other accomplishments of the campaign include the health sciences campus and school of pharmacy in downtown Kitchener, the Balsillie School of International Affairs, and expanded facilities for the schools of optometry and accounting.

There's also money for research and learning: everything from world-class German scholarship to better health care for people in old age. And there's also more money for students to volunteer or study abroad.

Only two other universities in Canada have raised more than $500 million before: University of Toronto and University of Alberta, said UW's associate vice-president for principal gifts and campaigns, Linda Kieswetter.

Both these are much larger and older institutions than Waterloo, which was founded in 1957.

Neighbouring Wilfrid Laurier University is between campaigns.

Its last campaign ended in 2007, and it narrowly exceeded its goal of $100 million, said Robert Donelson, vice-president for development and alumni relations.

Of the money raised at University of Waterloo, nearly 60 per cent came from individuals, including students, employees and alumni.

Campaign chair Bob Harding, himself a University of Waterloo graduate, said UW alumni are among the most supportive in the country. Almost 19 per cent donate to UW, the highest proportion for a university its size, according to the Maclean's magazine annual survey

"People who go to the University of Waterloo put a great deal of value on the education we get there, particularly because of the co-op experience, said Harding.

"It really gives students a leg up when they enter the workforce. The alumni really value that."

About 60 per cent of University of Waterloo students are in co-op, which alternates classroom learning with time spent in the workforce

The campaign's youngest donor was four-year-old Boaz Van Veen, who emptied his piggy bank -- it had $170 inside to help finance dementia research.

"He'd been saving up for quite a while," said Kieswetter.

Even in the difficult recession of the past year, the campaign still attracted more than $53 million in gifts.

Kieswetter said a recession is often a time for "building a relationship with our donors," and showing them how their money has made a difference. They may not be ready to donate right away, but their loyalty is secure for when the economy recovers.

She said many donors aren't content only to give money. They also want to be part of the operation. They might want to mentor students, advise on developing a program, or help set up a business plan.

For many of the donors, "it's very much a partnership," Kieswetter said.

"They want to be engaged. They don't want to just write a cheque."

Kieswetter said the campaign won't have a clear end date.

Instead, they'll set themselves the ambitious target of trying to raise $100 million a year.

She and Donelson of Wilfrid Laurier agree that the time may have come when the traditional campaign, with a beginning, middle and end, makes way for a pattern of ongoing fundraising.

"It's part of life now," she said.
 

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Moderators: At one time I remember a 'technology' or 'education' focused thread, if you want u can merge this thread into one of those. Just sometimes it's nice to give an article more coverage on it's own and then consolidate related topics later.

Here's another cool addition to the Waterloo population:

Intergalactic architect boldly goes… to Waterloo
July 31, 2009
By Colin Hunter, Record staff
http://news.therecord.com/News/Local/article/578461


Eric Yam is a 17-year-old Gade 12 student at Northern Secondary School in Toronto.He spent nine months designing a space station named Asten for future NASA missions. Now he's coming to the University of Waterloo.


WATERLOO — A Toronto teen’s NASA-approved vision may foretell the colonization of outer space. But first things first: Eric Yam is headed to Waterloo.

Last May, 17-year-old Yam won the grand prize of NASA’s Space Settlement Competition, making him the only Canadian winner in the contest’s 16-year history.

His winning design: a 1.6-kilometre-tall, one-kilometre-wide, cylindrical space colony that could sustain a population of 10,000 people and serve as an intergalactic lifeboat should planet Earth become unlivable through one calamity or another.

NASA was duly impressed, choosing his entry over 300 submissions from around the world. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, personally presented Yam with his prize at the 2009 International Space Development Conference recently in Orlando.

Now Yam is bringing his formidable brainpower to the University of Waterloo, where he is scheduled to begin his studies in the mechatronics engineering program next month.

Yam’s interest in engineering was sparked while building increasingly complex shapes out of Lego at age five. Through high school in Toronto, he learned how to build robots, radio controlled devices and other high-tech gadgetry.

He first entered the NASA design competition in Grade 9, then continued modifying and refining his blueprints until he re-submitted the schematics during Grade 12.

He dubbed his orbiting space station Asten, one of many alternate names for the Egyptian god Thoth, lord of the physical and moral laws. It’s a fitting name, since Yam himself sees his colony as governed by both the laws of physics and more virtuous facets of Canadian society.

What impressed NASA judges was not just that Yam’s station is technologically feasible, but that it also was conceived as a multicultural system governed by the rules of democracy, social responsibility and environmental sustainability.

Yam is keeping his options open for a career after his UW studies, though it’s hardly surprising he is leaning toward aerospace.

As he told the UW Engineering e-newsletter, his childhood dream is to design “the lumbering machines flying over our heads.”
 

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Now Yam is bringing his formidable brainpower to the University of Waterloo, where he is scheduled to begin his studies in the mechatronics engineering program next month.
Well, this decision means the end of whatever life he used to have. :lol:

Encouraging to see a few new buildings sprouting up here like the Quantum-Nano Tech building and Engineering V building. Long overdue IMO. Most of the campus is still stuck in the 1950s.
 

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Encouraging to see a few new buildings sprouting up here like the Quantum-Nano Tech building and Engineering V building. Long overdue IMO. Most of the campus is still stuck in the 1950s.
The university has been in a building frenzy over the last few years, and it looks like it won't be going anywhere soon. Some of the projects include the Optometry Expansion, Accounting Wing on Hagey Hall, new wing on the psychology building, Management Sciences wing expansion on CPH, the new Photovoltaic Research Centre, and the Pharmacy Building in downtown Kitchener. Engineering V is well underway, as is the Quantum-Nano Building (technically two towers with a shared based).

Currently in the pipeline are Engineering VI, some sort of Math Budiling Expansion (both received funding from the Build Canada Find), and an expansion to the ES building, that's rumoured to "tower" like the Sharp Centre at OCAD. Engineering VII is also going to happen once both V and VI are finished.
 

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http://ev3.uwaterloo.ca/forum/

That's where the public/students can discuss the new EV3 design.

I can see where the OCAD reference comes from, but it looks more like they're adding a fourth floor to EV2 than adding a separate building, in my opinion.

Also, WI, that picture of the construction of the Quantum-Nano buolding looks so much better in the sunshine. During the winter, the construction site in general was providing a mess.
 
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