From February 8-9, 2022, Universities Canada hosted over 170 participants for a special event called Accelerate. Over two days, people from all sectors across Canada gathered virtually to discuss Canada’s future and how we can take bold action to make it more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous.
Preparing Canada for future health crises
Participants had the chance to hear from Dr. Pieter Cullis, physicist and biochemist from The University of British Columbia who has won major international awards for developing the delivery technology that enabled the successful deployment of mRNA vaccines.
Dr. Cullis outlined the 40-year progression of his research and emphasized the technology’s potential to treat other diseases, such as HIV, cancer and malaria.
“When you see the potential for really developing a new medicine that’s maybe an anti-cancer or maybe it [treats] some rare disease or infectious disease such as COVID… it’s a real driver…a very exciting process.” – Dr. Pieter Cullis, Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
How innovation and education are changing our world
Our assembled group of business leaders agreed on the importance of creating a culture of innovation. Doing so requires risk, prioritization and creative thinking to break out of the mould.
“It takes a lot of courage to dare to dream differently… We need to identify the risk takers and be bold enough to say we back them, we believe in them.” – Maayan Ziv, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, AccessNow
As we reshape the country, leaders also stressed the importance of keeping inclusivity at the fore. While digital technologies have improved accessibility in some ways, it has also introduced new barriers, such as difficulty for those with limited internet access in rural and Indigenous communities.
“I agree we need to accelerate, but I also think we need to move at what we often call the speed of trust. There’s a real fine balance with how fast we go and how we move to ensure we’re building collaborative partnerships in a trusted way, and that we’re protecting the sovereignty of Indigenous people and Indigenous businesses.” – Tabatha Bull, President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
A conversation for a better future
Two former politicians made an appearance at the event: the Honourable Lisa Raitt, former Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition, and the Honourable Anne A. McLellan, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. As co-chairs of the Coalition for a Better Future, both women stressed the need for a big, bold plan to achieve inclusive, sustainable economic growth.
“One of the things that’s so important is the diversity of organizations who have stepped up and indicated they want to be part of this initiative where we focus on economic growth.” – Anne McLellan, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
The race to net zero
One of the greatest challenges facing our world today is climate change. Climate expert Katharine Hayhoe and RBC’s John Stackhouse discussed the need for people to reclaim a sense of hope and agency in dealing with the problem—something universities are well poised to help with by incorporating learning about climate in all disciplines of study. University research will also be key in developing good solutions to preserve the planet.
“We need to bring every talent and skill and ability and sector of expertise we have to beat the climate crisis.” – Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
Investing in Canada as a global leader
The pandemic has laid bare some of the challenges in our society, including those around social equity and health care. Leaders from this next panel agreed that it’s an opportune time to reflect on these challenges and rethink our approach to them. Bold action was a common theme among panellists, as was the importance of collaborating, making smart investments and staying agile.
To learn more about the event, visit the Accelerate web page.
About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.