Spotlight: The University of Waterloo Fusion Conference

If you’re looking for any indication of the University of Waterloo’s grassroot innovation tactics, look no further than its student-organized Science and Business conference. Running into its second-year under its chosen moniker of “Fusion”, the conference is almost completely organized and executed by a student-run Board of Directors, and showcases an exciting clutch of high-profile keynote speakers and workshops all centred around an underlying theme.

I recently managed to catch hold of Sean Elliot, one of the directors on the Board of Directors, and submitted him to a quick 4-question ordeal.

Can you give me a brief history of the Fusion conference series? How did it all start? Where did it all begin?

The Science and Business program has been hosting an annual conference for several years. Last year the conference organizers decided to brand the conference as “Fusion”. In the early stages of planning for Fusion 2010, our team decided to retain the “Fusion” brand name as it would give us continuity and tradition. The name is also apt because the idea of “fusion” truly embodies the principle underlying the conference’s premise  – that the fields of science and business are coming closer in more ways than were ever possible before.

How did you and your team get involved with planning the conference this year?

The Fusion 2010 Board of Directors is comprised of Megan Summers, Andrew Cha, Pragna Chandrasekhar and myself. We’re heavily involved with the Science and Business program at the University of Waterloo, and so were chosen by staff members to spearhead the planning and execution of the conference this year.

Can you quote me some statistics about the event? How many attendees are you expecting? How many speakers have you slotted?

Currently, there are about 220 students registered for this year’s conference; the majority are from the the University of Waterloo, but approximately 10% hail from other universities across Ontario, such as York, Queen’s, Wilfrid Laurier and the University of Toronto.

Our speakers, chosen from the energy, healthcare and technology sectors, bring their unique and rich experiences with them to share. Some of the representatives on display represent the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integrated Network, GABAE Development and the Power and Utilities group at Brookfield, as well as Microsoft Research, amongst others.

Can you give me a brief low-down of the event? What can we expect?

After continental breakfast and opening remarks delivered by David Johnston, the President of the University of Waterloo, we will begin the conference with a speaker session addressing the various uses of renewable energy, featuring the Ontario Power Authority, Brookfield Renewable Power, and the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association delivering keynote presentations.

The Open Text Corporation will introduce the Fusion 2010 case study next, for which delegates will be split into groups of six or seven members each, and will have approximately one hour to complete a written case study designed with a marketing focus. After lunch, the delegates will have the opportunity to meet, mix and mingle with our sponsors, many of whom will have booths set up throughout the area. We are proud to include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Dalhousie CRMBA, CBET and Aramark as some of our sponsors.

Following lunch, we then move on to our second speaker session, which focuses on various critical success factorspresent in the technology industry. This session features IBM Canada, GABAE Development, and Tech Capital Partners delivering their presentations, after which, the written case studies will be judged by members of Open Text, and finalists announced. Finalists will then have a few minutes to prepare a presentation to defend their case, before presenting to Open Text representatives for judging.

Our last speaker session will then take place, examining a profit and a not-for-profit healthcare business, as well as some of the issues involved in sustaining them. And to round it all off, the case study winners will be announced, followed by vote of thanks.

If you interested taking a look at the full schedule, you can find it online at the Fusion website –