$2-million gift supports university-industry collaboration and entrepreneurship

Posted on Thursday, March 29, 2012

By Gary Francoeur

As one of the world’s great research-intensive universities, McGill serves as an important incubator of innovation. But as is the case with many post-secondary institutions, limited resources have sometimes hampered the University’s
ability to take new technologies and discoveries from the lab to the commercial market.

A $2-million endowed gift to McGill from graduate William Seath, BEng’52, will help change that. The donation will allow the Faculty of Engineering to place greater emphasis on the “development” aspect of research and development, and take far-reaching initiatives to foster deeper knowledge, encourage entrepreneurial start-ups, increase industry
partnerships and advance the Quebec and Canadian economies.

 A timely investment

The new William and Rhea Seath Awards in Engineering Innovation will support and recognize annually two outstanding individuals in the Faculty of Engineering – either undergraduate students, graduate students or professors – who are conducting groundbreaking research with the potential for entrepreneurship.

Another portion of the gift will be used to support a full-time Industrial Research Development and Engagement Officer in the Faculty of Engineering. This new position will form the basis of the new Innovations Catalyst in Engineering hub, which will promote the commercialization of cutting-edge research; forge stronger bonds with industry; administer the William and Rhea Seath Awards and mentor students; generate industrial research contracts for McGill; and help researchers develop new spin-off companies based on their intellectual work.

“I wanted my gift to benefit not only McGill, but also industry and the economy,” says Seath. “It is my hope that this support will provide the University with the resources to spark new discoveries and then apply this knowledge in concrete ways, rather than simply doing science for the sake of science.”

 Turning ideas  into innovations

Andrew Kirk, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, says the gift “will enable us to be proactive in establishing industry-university partnerships; assist in generating revenue and
encourage and nurture innovation among students and professors alike. It will also serve students as a path for employment and, most importantly, spark a culture change that is critically important to McGill Engineering’s future.”

An aviation engineer by trade, Seath spent his entire 39-year career with Pratt & Whitney Canada, the country’s largest designer and manufacturer of gas turbine engines. He retired as vice-president in 1991 and currently lives in Kingston, Ont. His wife, Rhea, passed away in 2006 and the initiatives are meant in part as a tribute to her.

Seath’s reason for choosing to invest in McGill is simple: “Without my McGill Engineering degree, I don’t know what I would have done with my life,” he says.

For more information on Campaign McGill, visit www.mcgill.ca/campaign.

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