Entrepreneurship and innovation are not new phenomena. In an age of increasing social and environmental issues, there are areas within business that hold the key to improving life and safeguarding our future.

For years, enterprise centres, innovation labs and startup incubator programs have been popping up around the globe, as founders collaborate to drive rapid growth, hoping to be the next unicorn with multi-million dollar revenue in the early years. Recently, more entrepreneurs have been looking at how they can positively impact the world while also growing thriving businesses, and now incubator programs and enterprise centres are focusing on helping these socially and environmentally conscious founders achieve growth and impact.

One such centre helping young founders and entrepreneurs grow their impact businesses is the John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise within the College of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph. Just this month, the College welcomed a $7 million gift from a well-respected donor and businessman, John F. Wood, encouraging enhanced social innovation and entrepreneurship. The College of Business and Economics is renowned for its support of active learning and innovation, and its mission is to develop leaders for a sustainable world.

“This transformational gift will allow the University of Guelph to redefine the future of business education,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino. “The world is facing challenges that require new and sustainable business ideas and solutions, and our students are the change-makers. Their ideas, solutions and innovations have the potential to transform lives.”

This gift will give student and alumni entrepreneurs access to start-up funds, space and mentorship for their solutions-focused businesses and will help the College to further its mission. To date, roughly 60 student-led startups have received support from the Hub incubator within the existing centre, with many of these startups sharing a common goal with the College itself – to improve life through business. The gift, the largest in the history of the University of Guelph, allows the College of Business and Economics to play a leading role in developing a new generation of business leaders focused on innovation and solutions.

“I hope that this Centre provides young entrepreneurs with the education and confidence to succeed, create the future and improve life,” say John F. Wood said in a statement.

University enterprise centres such as this are becoming more common around the world, as students are recognized as having some of the most innovative solutions to global issues, solutions that have the potential to transform the world. At the John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise, students from any discipline – science, arts, business or engineering – will be able to identify an issue, develop a solution and bring it to life through a functioning company.

Entrepreneurship and social innovation can address an array of issues across multiple industries, aiming to solve a wide range of challenges. Some of the businesses that have been through the Hub incubator to date include WELO – an organic food and beverage company that donates proceeds to improving water availability in Kenya, Altilis Beauty – a skincare and cosmetic company that use organic and environmentally responsible ingredients sourced in Samoa, providing economic, social and environmental benefits to remote communities, and Taurus 3D, a 3-D printing company creating affordable printable prosthetic hand that is made of durable plastic or nylon using tension cables to activate the fingers; three unique but equally valuable business ideas that will undoubtedly improve lives and the wider world.

Through ongoing support, innovators can continue to push the boundaries, addressing and solving the social and environmental issues that affect us all. It is the enterprise centres that house these great businesses, offering space, funding and mentorship, that are crucial in ensuring a more sustainable future for all.


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