Posted on Thursday, September 24th, 2015


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Alastair Summerlee, President

Alastair Summerlee 

When I have the opportunity to thank someone personally who has donated to The BetterPlanet Project fundraising campaign, they often tell me they believe the University of Guelph is a good place to invest their gift because they know it will produce positive results. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m talking to one of our alumni who contributed to a scholarship fund or the CEO of a major corporation that supports a research chair.
I’ve also heard the words “invest” and “results” in recent conversations about our top showing in a national survey that evaluated inventiveness at Canadian universities. For the second year in a row, U of G was identified as having the lowest per-invention cost of any Canadian university: less than $1 million per disclosure.
In total, the University’s $150-million research budget produced 181 invention disclosures in the past year evaluated by The Impact Group consulting firm. 
It’s not surprising that many U of G discoveries relate to new crop varieties and technologies that improve food processing. Our research history began in agriculture, but our long-standing agreement with the Ontario ministries of agriculture and food and rural affairs now supports a diverse menu of research, teaching and outreach programs that benefit all Ontarians.
Guelph innovations improve our food supply, our health, our communities, culture and society as well as the health of animals and the environment we all share. In financial terms, Ontario’s $88 million annual investment in U of G innovation returns about $1.15 billion in economic impact across the province. 
We are continually expanding the University’s sphere of innovation as new technologies allow us to look deeper into the biology of plants and animals. A U of G invention licensed this summer illustrates that point. Our investment in a patented technology developed by chemistry professor Mario Monteiro will be used to manufacture human vaccines to treatClostridium difficile infections. The potential benefits for human health are enormous. 
To press the point a little further, other Guelph technologies now available for licensing include trans-free, low saturate shortening designed for bakery products; a line of canola resistant to root maggot; and a new way to synthesize metal sulfides used in lithium battery cathodes and photoconductors. 
Our inventive mindset is also evident in new fellowships awarded to PhD students who are working to commercialize two Guelph ideas: a portable probe to help verify seafood species using DNA barcodes and a palm-sized metal fish that can combat life-threatening anemia in developing countries by releasing iron when boiled with food in a cooking pot. 
Not all University innovations can be patented, but their impact on society, on the education sector and on our students, in particular, can be profound.
The summer also brought news of a large federal grant that will allow professor and musician Ajay Heble to advance his community-based work in musical improvisation – it’s an area of academic research and outreach “invented” by his team of scholars in the arts and humanities. 
Research published by postdoc Ian Mosby generated public outrage across Canada with the finding that aboriginal children and adults were once used as unwitting subjects in nutritional experiments by government officials.
History professor Jacqueline Murray and business professor Trent Tucker will return to their classrooms this fall with national teaching awards: she for her work with enquiry-based learning in first-year seminars, he for creative instruction that allows first-year students to benefit from experiential programs normally reserved for upper-year courses.
Inventiveness is evident across campus, embraced by researchers and teachers and increasingly by students who share our belief that the results we achieve here can improve our own lives and living conditions for other people around the world. There is no better result from the investment of intellect, time and money in the future of the University of Guelph.

Alastair Summerlee

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