As UBC nears its centennial, researchers, faculty and students steadily make advancements in labs and classrooms that go on to affect the world, not only on the cerebral scale but also in the commercial arena.
To date, UBC is the incubator for 169 spin-off companies, and discoveries that have helped generate more than $5 billion in sales and incalculable benefits to society. Featuring companies such as Vortek Industries and its high intensity lamp, BC biotechnology industry once-cornerstone QLT Inc. with its highly successful therapy to combat macular degeneration, WebCT and its worldwide learning platform, and Westport Innovations to name only a few, commercial ventures are given the best possible incubation for success at UBC.
UBC’s commitment to international knowledge exchange comes alive in the formation of The India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS) in 2011. A joint proposal between UBC, the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto wins funding from the Canadian federal government to create the first International Network Centre of Excellence in the world (prior to this, any Network of Centre of Excellence had been strictly national). The centre keeps collaboration and multidisciplinary India-Canada research as its core requirement for research, and requires that chosen projects be ready to ‘hit the ground running’ at the community level in both countries.
In late 2011, TRIUMF’s main cyclotron and its ISAC facility sets a world record for delivering the most intense beams onto an actinide (a metal heavier than lead and bismuth) target for the production of isotopes used in medical and nuclear applications. Between 2010-2015, TRIUMF contributes to Canada’s ranking as one of the top 3 most productive publishers of high impact papers in particle and nuclear physics. It also provides more than 5,200 production runs of medical isotopes for the Pacific Parkinsons’ Research Program and the BC Cancer Agency, while commercially it generates $9 million, with 4 spin-off companies emerging from research conducted at the centre.
UBC announces its 3,000th ‘campus grown’ invention in 2011. Knowledge mobilization becomes more than a buzzword at UBC — researchers collaborate across disciplines to find real-world solutions; entrepreneurs take ideas into practice and commercialization; the campus itself becomes a laboratory that research, operations, staff, students and faculty participate in.
Sustainability — economic, environmental and social — becomes a core research focus for the university and takes physical shape in its $35-million, 5,675-square-meter Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), which opens in 2011. The following year, UBC wins the prestigious Blue Planet Award for Sustainability, valued at nearly $645,000 CDN, at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil. UBC continues its clean energy practice with the launch of its on-site Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility, which supplies heat and power to UBC’s Vancouver campus using biomass — mainly waste lumber production products such as tree trimmings and wood chips. In the fall of 2015, UBC’s new Campus Energy Centre (CEC) will open its doors as a $24-million state-of-the-art hot water boiler facility located in the Vancouver campus.
The UBC Farm further embodies the principles of the ‘living lab’ by offering hands-on research space for more than 3,000 students, through 60 courses, and across 10 different UBC Faculties and Schools. Located on unceded ancestral Musqueam territory, the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems works closely with four Indigenous initiatives at the UBC Farm: the Musqueam Garden, Maya in Exile Garden, Tu’wusht Project, and Indigenous Health Research and Education Garden. The farm offers a unique and valuable place for graduate research and directed studies while engaging with the community through farm markets and camps for children.
In every discipline, UBC students continue to innovate, none more so than Aaron Coret with Stephen Slen who invent the Katal Landing Pad for safe snowboarding and which, via their company Katal Innovations, is used in the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. With the advent of social media, many students, faculty, staff and the broader community hear news of UBC’s latest discoveries on UBC’s official Facebook and Twitter platforms.
Explore the era
From its start, UBC was a change agent.
It can’t be said this quality was entirely due to one thing or another — being on the wild West Coast, starting out in the shadow of McGill University or having its students crammed like sardines into its first campus — but rather its character was formed by a confluence of these early experiences, along with the vision of its first leader and president, Frank F. Wesbrook.
Wesbrook passionately believed in the idea of a “people’s university”. He and the faculty who joined him in the new university’s first years of struggle, had faith that UBC would, one day, join the ranks of the great universities and help change the world with new knowledge.
Perhaps more than anything, it was this faith that ignited the entrepreneurial spirit within UBC that has proven to be resilient, nimble, curious and formidable; a university that now influences the global knowledge economy and changes the course of history through its discoveries. Now entering into its second century, UBC remains a place where the freedom to pursue open thinking leads to ideas that change the world.
Inspired and guided by its motto Tuum Est, UBC will continue to provide its students, staff and faculty the same freedom over the next 100 years.
- Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm. (2015). Research and teaching. Retrieved from http://ubcfarm.ubc.ca/research-teaching/
- IC-IMPACTS. (2015). About us. Retrieved from http://ic-impacts.com/about/about-us/
- TRIUMF. (2015). Five-year plan 2015-2020. Retrieved from http://www.triumf.ca/five-year-plan-2015–2020
- University of British Columbia. (2015.) Connected by commitment: Annual report 2014-2015. Retrieved from http://annualreport.ubc.ca
- University of British Columbia, Research and International. (2015.) News and announcements. Retrieved from https://research.ubc.ca/research-excellence/news-announcements
- Header image: Martin Dee
- Pull quote and president images: Martin Dee, Katal Innovations Inc. (Snowboard image)
- Timeline media: The University of British Columbia Archives, Martin Dee, Don Erhardt, Individual UBC Faculties and Departments, WebsEdgeEducation (Max Planck Society video), UBC Studios (CIRS video), UBC Faculty of Education (Indigenous Education video), UBC YouTube (Our Truth video), UBC Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (Robert Kozak video), UBC DAE (Ponderosa Commons video), UBC Community Affairs (Dr. Sherill Grace video), Joeri van Leeuwen (Geodetic Precession in a Pulsar video), UBC Faculty of Medicine (Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health), Sauder School of Business at UBC (The Case for Business Ethics video)
- Slideshow media: Martin Dee, Don Erhardt, Andrea Damascelli (Quantum Matter Institute photo)
UBC is proud to mark its 100th anniversary as a global leader in education, research innovation and community engagement.
Learn more about the UBC Centennial.