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Internships drive Canadian innovation

Mitacs Accelerate

 This story is taken from the NCE anniversary report "Building on 25 Years of R&D Excellence."

Mitacs Accelerate intern Stephen Dwyer

Mitacs Accelerate intern Stephen Dwyer. NCE funding accounted for 814 of the more than 1,700 internships Mitacs supported in 2012–13, a 32% increase from the previous year. Its long-term goal is to reach 10,000 internships.

The business and skills challenges

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows often lack the opportunity to apply their research to real-world business challenges. Having this experience not only makes them more employable, it also helps Canadian companies become more innovative, productive and competitive.

The opportunities

Canada has embraced an internship model that connects the research expertise in universities with the needs of industry to help Canadian companies grow and compete on the international stage.

Mitacs Accelerate helps Canada address three main innovation and prosperity objectives: job creation, improved industrial productivity and increased business expenditures in R&D. Interns gain valuable experience, and industry partners get access to talented researchers and potential future employees.

What Mitacs Accelerate is doing right

This unique internship model attracted unprecedented industry interest when it was launched in 2003 by the Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems (MITACS) NCE1 as a pilot program for advanced mathematical sciences graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Today, with support from the NCE IRDI program, other federal departments and agencies, and provincial governments, Mitacs Accelerate remains an important legacy of the original NCE and has evolved to become Canada’s largest internship program for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows of all disciplines. Here’s how they’re doing it:

  • Good governance and management: The board of directors of Mitacs consists primarily of industry members, as well as representatives from partner universities. The Mitacs Research Council oversees the research integrity of all programs, including the independent peer-review performed by more than 1,200 academic and industrial researchers from across North America. The Accelerate program is delivered by a business development team of professionals with industrial research experience.
  • Shared funding, shared benefits: Costs are shared by the federal and several provincial governments and industry. More small- and medium-sized companies are also participating – over 100 in 2012–13 – thanks to the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program which pays 50% of each company’s contribution.

The success of the NCE-supported Accelerate model has enabled Mitacs to partner with other organizations and funders to offer a unique suite of programs that cut across all sectors and regions of the economy: traditional and emerging; economic and social; and rural and urban.

  1. In 2011, MITACS became two organizations: the Mprime Network carried on the NCE mandate, while Mitacs Inc. became a separate organization dedicated to internships and training.