Fostering connections leads to innovation

Two works of art hang side by side on my office wall. One is Requiem for a Planet by David Bierk, a play on an image by Italian Baroque painter Pietro da Cortona. The other, Life Adrift in the Ocean by U of G fine art professor Jean Maddison, depicts a DNA strand and a human infant floating in the void.

Each artwork is eye-catching on its own. Viewing them together makes me think of collaborations between disciplines at U of G. Art and science talk to each other on my wall and across this campus.

Guelph is home to experts who devote their lives to profound study of disciplines in the humanities, sciences and social sciences. At the same time, our researchers often connect with each other in surprising ways.

For example, our School of Environmental Sciences invites artists for a residency program intended to challenge our imagination, and to offer new viewpoints on science and culture.

Veterinary researchers, biologists and ecologists meet up under U of G’s “one-health” approach to tackle health problems where people, animals and the environment intersect — notably in our Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses.

In our Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre, Guelph engineers work with plant scientists to find uses for crops as renewable materials for car parts.

Each of these disciplines matters on its own. Perhaps more exciting is what happens when they come together in shared projects.

This campus is a community of minds that meet and collaborate and innovate together. In our fast-changing world with its big and often messy challenges, fostering those connections is more important than ever for innovation.

At U of G, dealing with epidemics and infectious disease outbreaks calls for bringing together expert minds not just in human health but also in animal health and environmental studies.

Beyond our own planet, we are looking outward to new worlds, and to a host of new challenges that we can meet only by joining minds across physics, planetary studies, humanities, environmental sciences and social sciences.

As technology continues to evolve, we need to bring minds to bear on new ways of innovating. “Innovation 2.0” will fundamentally change how we think and how we understand our evolving world.

Supporting Canada’s university communities — with their sometimes chaotic chatter in the classroom, the laboratory and the library — is vital for fostering Innovation 2.0 for a better future.

Franco Vaccarino
President and Vice-Chancellor