Mitacs reopens applications for graduate student internships in Ontario — University Affairs


The research organization briefly suspended funding in the province following a major funding shortage.

Earlier this fall, jennifer drake, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carleton University, heard from one of her industrial partners about a research project that would be ideal for a graduate student. Dr. Drake, who specializes in stormwater management and green infrastructure, told them there was nothing she could do to help collaborate on the project, although she knew many students who needed work and funding.

The problem, she said, boiled down to an unexpected and temporary lack of funding for new projects through Mitacs, a Canadian nonprofit that provides funding to connect scholars with private industry and government research partners. August 28, Mitacs, which also funds internships and training for undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and postdoctoral students across the country, announced that it is suspending applications from Ontario for all of its programs indefinitely due to of underfunding. Any ongoing programs would continue to receive funding, and Mitacs would review and approve all applications submitted before the break date.

About 10 weeks later, on November 3, Mitacs began notifying universities, colleges and other stakeholders that the pause was lifted – it would again be accepting submissions for its Accelerate, Elevate and Globalink initiatives. (His popular business strategy internship is still on hiatus in Ontario and some other provinces as it is a capped program that is in high demand.) Following the announcement, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities of Ontario has committed an additional $10 million to the organization.

“Our government is supporting post-secondary students and their partners through experiential learning programs, like Mitacs, that prepare students with the skills and training needed to fill jobs in an innovative economy,” said proposed the ministry in a written statement to University Affairs.

“Mitacs is grateful to the Ontario government for its continued support,” said Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director John Hepburn, who negotiated with the province for the new funding. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the province to drive innovation and economic growth.

During the nearly two-month hiatus, however, researchers such as Dr. Drake and the organizations they work with, as well as students, were unsure how to proceed.

Mitacs did not issue an official press release regarding the suspension of applications, but communicated directly with its partners. Researchers, however, often learned about it through their universities’ research offices and social media. Dr. Drake said she didn’t hear Mitacs reopened graduate student applications until nearly a week after the incident, which further delayed her ability to recruit a student intern and submit paperwork. required.

“There is no alternative, there is no other program,” Dr. Drake said of the funding Mitacs provides for industry and government partnerships and research jobs. accompanying students.

Funding for all Mitacs internships comes from both the organization and the industry partner—for the Accelerate program, for example, each stakeholder invests $7,500. From there, the student researcher is paid $10,000 and the remaining $5,000 goes towards research costs. Students spend time working with the partner organization and with the professor leading the research project.

Dr. Drake frequently acts as a supervising professor, setting up students with organizations such as conservation authorities to conduct research, for example, on the performance of stormwater management equipment. The project helps this organization solve a problem, serves as the basis for the student’s thesis and forms part of the professor’s laboratory output.

In its 23-year history, Mitacs has never had to suddenly suspend admission to the program like it did this year.

“We had approved, and in the works, enough internships to use our budget for the whole year,” Dr. Hepburn said of the decision at the end of the summer to suspend funding. “We’ve had a lot more demand in Ontario for our programs.

Demand began to grow across the country for all programs when Mitacs expanded eligibility in 2015, allowing Crown corporations and nonprofits to host internships, not just for-profit companies. Then in 2021, because it secured additional funding, Mitacs Ontario announced a 50% reduction in the fees industry partners had to pay, with the deal continuing through the end of the fiscal year. Mitacs financial backer the following April.

“The combination of the discount and the knowledge that this program was coming to an end basically meant that we were inundated with applications,” Dr Hepburn said.

Mitacs draws its budget from a combination of federal and provincial funds. In April 2021, the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development pledged $708 million over five years, covering 75% of its budget. For the remaining 25%, Mitacs looks to the provinces, some of which have committed to providing stable funding over five-year periods, while others renew on a year-to-year basis.

Ontario gave Mitacs $5.5 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year. In recognition of the disruption caused to the program by the pandemic, the province increased its investment over the next two years to a total of $42 million—this additional money allowed Mitacs to offer the short-term discount to partners industry.) budget released last spring, Ontario’s Mitacs allocation has reverted to a more usual $7.5 million.

Dr. Hepburn said Mitacs hopes to sign a long-term funding commitment from Ontario that will keep pace with demand and allow it to plan better. It also has multi-year commitments from Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, while its agreement with Manitoba is ending soon.

Despite recent financial challenges, Mitacs has no plans to change the way it approves internship applications. “We always thought that if there was a worthwhile project, we would support it. We don’t like saying no to people,” Dr. Hepburn said. “Putting things on hold is not something we like to do, and we’d rather not do that in the future. But this year has been an unusual year.


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