Paul Esposito and UFV president Joanne MacLean at the opening of the Esposito Family Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. (UFV photo)

Paul Esposito and UFV president Joanne MacLean at the opening of the Esposito Family Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. (UFV photo)

UFV launches Esposito Family Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Applications now being accepted for Innovation Team Grants

A new research centre focused on innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford recently began operations.

The Esposito Family Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (EFCIE) was established through an endowment provided by the Esposito family of Abbotsford.

Dr. Jon Thomas has been appointed as the director of EFCIE. He also holds the BC regional innovation chair in Canada-India partnership development at UFV and is an associate professor in the UFV School of Business.

“Our centre will work to foster an inclusive, vibrant, and resilient space for innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives for the UFV and Fraser Valley communities,” Thomas said.

He said the connection between innovation and society is a unique aspect of the centre.

“Our work is guided by the understanding that innovative technologies impact society and society in turn shapes technological progress. And we invite entrepreneurs, faculty members, students, and community organizations interested in innovation and entrepreneurship to work with us.”

EFCIE’s activities include research, course development, and mentoring both students and local entrepreneurs. Community outreach by the centre includes special events, guest lectures, and projects that explore the interactions between technology, innovation, and society.

Part of the mission of the centre is to help stimulate economic development in the Fraser Valley through building relationships with local entrepreneurs, innovators, and community organizations.

UFV president Joanne MacLean said the centre will bring together students, faculty, government, industry, and communities “to create an exciting, interdisciplinary space where change and innovation can be embraced and explored.”

“I truly believe the centre will build a social and economic future that is better than the past and I am excited for the ideas that will flourish and commercialize as a result of this space,” she said.

EFCIE has been established through a $1.125 million gift made by the Esposito family of Abbotsford in 2018.

RELATED: Esposito Family donates $1.125 million to UFV

Faculty associates at this new interdisciplinary research centre currently include researchers and faculty members from UFV’s biology, business, kinesiology, and sociology departments.

Students working on research projects currently come from the computer information systems and business programs. The research office, led by Dr. Garry Fehr, has provided significant support through the startup phase of the centre. The UFV Alumni Association is also an active partner in the centre.

The centre has partnered with the UFV Student Union Society (SUS) and Enactus UFV, a business student organization, to support innovative research by students and faculty members through funding opportunities.

The UFV vice-president of students and the dean of science have offered matching support to add to the available funds.

The Innovation Team Grants will assist joint student-faculty teams seeking to solve significant problems facing society.

Innovation team grants will bring faculty mentors and students together and allow them to explore ideas. An innovation team will expand on initial student work, either by developing a working prototype or by assessing the viability of a proposed solution in a more rigorous manner.

As part of this process, experts from EFCIE will mentor the student-faculty team in the areas of evaluating market opportunities and guiding validated solutions to society.

A total of $10,000 is available for the general stream (with $5,000 contributed by the office of the vice-president, students). A total of $5,000 is available for the STEM stream (contributed by the faculty of science).

Grants will be dispersed in amounts varying from approximately $1,000 to $3,000, and can be used for travel (in non-COVID times), materials, and research support for students.

The deadline for grant applications is Jan. 31. Visit ufv.ca/innovation-entrepreneurship/ or contact innovate@ufv.ca for more information.