The Quartier de l’Innovation Students’ Society (QISS) at McGill University aims to expose McGill students to the world of opportunities offered by Montréal’s innovation district and act as a purveyor of entrepreneurial leaders for the Quartier de l'Innovation (QI). An exploration into the QISS’ mission to develop a bond between the university’s youth and innovation reveals how it plans to foster involvement with the QI on campus.
A renewed partnership
McGill University, a founding member of the Quartier de l’Innovation, has worked in symbiosis with the QI to promote urban development, entrepreneurial innovation and socio-cultural activity since the organization’s inception in 2013. However, a new player aims to celebrate the tie between the two entities in the form of the Quartier de l’Innovation Student Society; a group aspiring to increase access to and awareness of the Quartier de l’Innovation within the McGill campus.
Jacob Lavigne, a student pursuing a Ph.D. in Experimental Surgery at McGill University, has been president of the QISS since June 2016 - a period that marked a turning point for the QI presence on campus. Initially, a student working group led by the McGill administration was created in 2013 to mark the relationship between the university and the QI. Three years later, the group switched to a student-led model: the QISS. For Jacob Lavigne, giving a new spin on the group lies in his belief that “student participation directly within a society can help drive involvement” and “as a citizen of Montréal, one should know what the Quartier de l’Innovation does; the university has invested a lot of time in the QI, and vice versa and more people need to know that”.
An opportunity to discover the innovation district
The QISS aims to promote the numerous opportunities that the innovation district can bring to undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students on campus as well as further promote the partnership between the two entities. For the society’s president, making connections with the QI is a no-brainer: “there are multiple opportunities in the QI, ranging from internships and job offers to research” he points out, “as well as multiple students looking to launch their startups who could use some guidance from the organization”. He sees a strategic breakdown in how the QI can impact students’ career paths so that all may feel included by the QISS: through the propagation of ideas and events, to networking and funding opportunities for students in the forefront of start-up development projects. Beyond a playground with a concentration of high business resources, the QISS would like more students to discover the innovation district for what it is: a neighborhood bursting with dynamic enterprises, cultural events and other young ingenious students.
So far, the QISS has held 4 on-campus events reaching over 130 attendees – an impressive performance for a society restructured in June 2016. The events titled the “Innovation Seminar Series” have been centred on sharing buzzing themes in the sphere of innovation. Topics such as smart cities, environmental innovation and intrapreneurship have been broached during the seminars, which always presents diverse expert speakers ranging from professors and researchers to business professionals.
What does the future hold for the QISS?
Although the Quartier de l’Innovation has grown in popularity amongst McGill students due to its strong position as a promoter of start-up development and technology research, Mr Lavigne believes that the organization can keep soaring to new heights. The goals for the QISS remains to spread awareness of the QI through simple initiatives so as to engage students and capture their interest in participating in the QI community events”, he says.
The society also wishes to fill the some of the space where universities and the entrepreneurship community exchange talent, ideas and knowledge. For example, to promote and award leaders in the field of innovation on campus, the QISS has been creating events such as the QInnovator Awards, that will take place in September. The upcoming event will provide a financial award for students working on innovative projects that drive impact in the community, of $3000 and $1000 respectively for the winner and runner-up.
Another central goal of the society is to accentuate the growing efforts in collaboration between universities – the creation of the QI itself was a marking point in higher education partnership across McGill University, l’ÉTS, Concordia University and l’UQAM. Mr Lavigne states that, hopefully, a series of seminars that would promote knowledge sharing among higher institutions in Montréal’s innovation district will be in the works as soon as QI chapters are set up in other universities.
Writer: Marjolaine Génot