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The panel, announced in Thursday’s Ontario budget, will also include Shiri Breznitz, a University of Toronto professor; Dan Herman, former head of strategy for Innovation Canada; Natalie Raffoul, an Ottawa-based patent lawyer; and Myra Tawfik, an IP law expert. (Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: Universities spend billions of dollars each year on R&D, but they see relatively little return on that work. U of T, for example, brought in $2 million in royalties in 2015, and was granted $1.1 billion for research that year. Balsillie has been a major critic of Canada’s intellectual property track record, arguing we don’t generate enough IP and that Canada’s R&D is too often commercialized in the U.S. Creating a pipeline from basic research to commercialization could mitigate that. But, as John Lorinc noted in an article for The Logic, many critics argue that universities should focus on basic and creative research rather than commercializing it.

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An iconic aerospace firm is back in Canadian hands after a group of high-profile investors strike a blockbuster deal. Here’s what you need to know:

The deal: Colorado-based Maxar is selling MDA’s Canadian and U.K. businesses to a group of Canadian investors for $1 billion. That includes a workforce of 1,900 and “ground stations, radar satellite products, robotics, defense, and satellite components,” which are expected to bring in US$370 million in revenue this year.

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The buyers: Toronto-based Northern Private Capital led the consortium. The firm’s first fund is anchored by money from the fisheries and telecom billionaire John Risley, and is helmed by Andrew Lapham, a former executive at private equity giants Onex and Blackstone and husband to Ontario Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney. Jim Balsillie, the former co-CEO of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry) is also participating, as is Montreal-based Senvest, a publicly traded investment company that’s previously owned broadcasting assets. The transaction is also being financed with debt issued by Scotiabank, BMO and Toronto-based firms PointNorth Capital and Canso Investment Counsel.

Why it matters: Founded by University of British Columbia colleagues John MacDonald and Werner Dettwiler in the former’s Vancouver basement in 1969, MDA has worked on many of Canada’s most well-known space projects—including the one pictured on the five-dollar bill, the Canadarm. It built both generations of the robotic arm, as well as all three of Ottawa’s Radarsat surveillance and Earth-observation satellite networks, the latest of which became operational this month. It’s been hailed as a Canadian technology success story—so its acquisition by Maxar, following a 2017 deal that merged it with satellite operator DigitalGlobe, elicited worries over the loss of a national champion. The previous Conservative government had blocked a 2008 takeover attempt by U.S. defence contractor Alliant Techsystems. The new owners said they will repatriate MDA’s corporate headquarters, though they did not specify where—it has six offices across British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

The opportunity: Space is the final business frontier. Morgan Stanley estimates the industry could grow from US$350 billion in 2019 to more than US$1 trillion by 2040, led by demand for satellite broadband internet access. U.S. companies like Amazon, SpaceX and OneWeb, as well as Ottawa-based Telesat, are vying to offer coverage via constellations of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Those firms alone will spend billions buying equipment, and MDA is one potential supplier—in June 2016, it won a contract to build antennae for OneWeb. Space Systems/Loral, which MDA bought in 2012, also has a design deal with Telesat. Monday’s deal brings in domain expertise. Balsillie, who will reportedly sit on MDA’s board, commercialized telecommunications technology at RIM. Risley, meanwhile, made much of his money by selling his Carribean-based wireless, cable and broadband company.

The (possible) challenge: Governments tend to be particular about where their space suppliers are based, and to whom they sell technology. For example, MDA set up a San Francisco-based operating company in 2016 as part of a “U.S. Access Plan” to win contracts in Washington. The deal shores up MDA’s position in Ottawa, at a time when the Canadian government is backing LEOs—in July, it signed a $600-million deal for access to Telesat’s network, and awarded it $85 million from the Strategic Innovation Fund for development work. But it remains to be seen what the repatriation will mean for MDA’s prospects of winning U.S. business; Lapham did not respond to The Logic’s request for comment.

The market reaction: Maxar’s stock on the New York Stock Exchange was up more than 17 per cent in early afternoon trading. In a research note, CIBC analysts Stephanie Price and Scott Fletcher wrote that the deal was “positive” for the U.S. firm, “reducing leverage and allowing the company to focus on its core Imagery business.” They said the Canadian consortium paid a reasonable price, worth 2.1 times the division’s sales.

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Companies at the school have also created more than 7,500 jobs, according to a report commissioned by the university and prepared by Deloitte. Companies that hired Waterloo co-op students netted an additional $525 million in returns in the 2018–19 year. Velocity, the university’s early-stage incubator, helped companies create over 4,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in revenue between 2008 and 2018. (The Logic)

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Talking point: What this study doesn’t measure is almost as interesting as what it does. There’s lots in the 94-page report on money earned by companies affiliated with the university; for example, the Accelerator Centre brought in $1 billion in revenue since 2006 for the late-stage startups it works with. But there are no numbers here on money the university earned on its own intellectual property. In April, my colleague Catherine reported that the University of Waterloo generated $55,327 in 2017 by licensing research and development, after spending $205.7 million. Today’s report provides plenty of evidence for the success of its approach: lots of tech founders, lots of money going to companies and jobs created. One potential conflict brewing: the Ontario government tapped Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry), to lead a group to figure out how universities can make more money off their research.