Ontario is home to a diverse and thriving life sciences community. It includes companies both large and small – multinationals and homegrown firms – service providers, academics, students and government officials. Life Sciences Ontario (LSO) is the member-driven organization that proudly represents this vast and vibrant sector.

As the organization dedicated to promoting and fostering relationships within this community – in Ontario and nationwide – we understand the importance of collaboration and partnership. Building networks is our bread and butter. It’s not only our purpose, but also our passion, to see relationships grow between industry stakeholders.  

Importantly, the collaboration we encourage is not just between corporations and industry leaders. We also support relationship building between newcomers to the sector and mentors who can guide them. That’s why we were proud to launch the Life Sciences Ontario Scholarship Program.

The idea for the scholarship began when our team met at the Novo Nordisk Canada offices in Mississauga, with members from Roche Canada and five MPPs from the Mississauga area. During the meeting, we discussed the impact of life sciences on Mississauga in particular, an area that boasts a high density of industry offices in the pharmaceutical and medical space. Nina Tangri, MPP for Mississauga-Streetsville, was enthusiastic for better integration of industry within the community. As the conversation unfolded, the idea of a scholarship program was raised, and together we realized this could be a win-win-win situation: for young people in the community; industry leaders who will have access to bright young minds; and the sector, as relationships are built.

The companies* who are involved aren’t just providing financial support, they will offer mentorship, too. Students will learn from professionals in the field, helping them make informed decisions before choosing their career path. Thinking back to my time as a student in the sciences at the University of Waterloo, I remember the great value of my co-op experience. I’m excited to be helping provide students with this same kind of opportunity, to gain real-world experience at this crucial stage of learning. 

The launch event at Novo Nordisk Canada this spring was a hugely rewarding day. Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in attendance, along with MPP Nina Tangri. We were thrilled to have some of the province’s key decision makers celebrating the incredible brilliance of Ontario’s young minds. At the Mississauga Board of Trade event announcing the winners of the scholarship, I was heartened to see the appreciation on the faces of the students for the support and mentorship offered by the program. Both days were true examples of industry groups working hand-in-hand, in a unique way, to a hugely positive end.

Given the powerful response the scholarship received as a pilot in Mississauga, the program will be expanded to a province-wide initiative in 2020.

Year-round we support student learning through a mentorship program we are incredibly proud of. For the past 30 years, LSO’s Student Membership has provided young people with the opportunity to network with experienced individuals in the sector. The program utilizes the Ten Thousand Coffees platform to allow students and mentors to connect with individuals in person or digitally. We also host networking events, providing students a safe space to hone their interpersonal skills with professionals in their field.

We look forward to the success of the students who participate in the LSO Scholarship Program – this year, and beyond. One thing’s for certain: with continued collaboration between individuals and industry, students and professionals, companies and government, the future of the life sciences in Ontario is bright.

* The LSO Scholarship is supported by AstraZeneca, Bayer, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, Horizon Pharma, Novo Nordisk, Roche, and Sanofi Canada.