That's a great question.
At Ryerson we are looking at it as a spectrum of innovation. We start in the classroom, probably from the second year of undergrad studies, and we introduce the curricular model that we call the super course. We bring students from different disciplines together, from fashion, media, computer science, mechanical engineering, and put them all in one very big lecture hall. The professor is teaching them about the process of innovation and entrepreneurship. At the end of that course they are going to develop their first prototype, and they are going to get an academic credit. They start early.
Then we pass them to an area at Ryerson that we call the launch zone. This is still in the ideation phase, but they need mentorship to be able to bring it to the functional prototype stage. During about one or two semesters in the launch zone, they will figure out the business models. They will figure out the disruptive and high-impact factors of their innovation.
Then we prepare them to bring them to the Digital Media Zone. The Digital Media Zone has about five floors now. They start on the fifth floor, as if it's a school; they practise and validate their technology.
With the help of the FedDev program from the federal government, we also built a centre called the centre for cloud computing, which is more focused on research commercialization. It has access to a large IP pool. These groups of students have preferred access to these IP portfolios so that they can create some sort of science behind what they are working on.
When their business model is more mature, we have connections to seed investments and to government funds through our office of research services. We prepare them to bring their innovation forward and we move it to the acceleration phase. That is an entity that we call the Ryerson Futures, which helps them with seed funds and connections to VCs.
After they pass that phase, then they are basically graduating from that program. We try to connect students from very early undergraduate years, and also connect them in the master's, Ph.D., and post-doctoral levels, irrespective of who they are, and what discipline, and what level of studies they are in. We look at it from the spectrum point of view. The earlier they start the better, because they have more time to focus on their innovation and not worry too much about the complexities of building the business from day one.
A mistake we have seen a lot is that they think they need to have a company right away. When they do that, they need to worry about tax, employment law, about everything, so they cannot focus on that disruptive factor of their innovation. If we help them in the fail-safe environment of the university, they are going to be more prepared when they graduate from the DMZ program, and then they can enter the market in a stronger way.