Turning ideas into businesses

Every year, the Activator program helps commercialize student inventions and launch new start-ups

It only takes a moment of inspiration for a student to dream up a brilliant invention. In many cases, they never see the light of day.

But in the University of New Brunswick’s Activator program, those dreams become a reality.

The Activator program is part of the faculty of business administration at UNB Fredericton. Launched in 2007, the program aims to help students who otherwise don’t have the business expertise to develop and market their ideas.

Putting ideas to work

The courses teach students how to do market research, form a business plan, look into entrepreneurial finance and then pitch their ideas.

“In general when you take that series of courses you end with an entrepreneurship concentration. So it’s a master of business administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship,” said Liz Lemon-Mitchell, director of communications and operations for the faculty of business administration.

At the beginning of the year, students are matched up with a venture. Together with their team, they create a business plan and search out a market opportunity and venture analysis.

Some of those MBA students are selected as leaders, taking the courses and helping other students commercialize their idea.

Helping local communities

One project currently taking off at UNB is ReadyPass, a system that provides transit users with up-to-date bus tracking information and can act as an electronic bus pass.

Alex Kall, the second-year MBA student helping the inventors market the project, said they’ve already made a huge impact on Fredericton transit.

”We’ve been working quite closely with the City of Fredericton to get feedback as we develop this thing to make sure what we’re doing is in line with what they need. They’re excited about it, we’re excited about it, and it’s starting to reach other communities nearby,” he said, adding other cities have approached the business for their help.

Each bus is equipped with a tablet to help drivers and accept payments, while riders use an app on their phone or visit the ReadyPass website.

The app also features bus schedules and route mapping to help riders find their way with ease.

Applying academic learning to real-world situations

The Activator program has been “incredible” for Kall, who said it provides him with real-world experience.

“It’s really unique because everything we do academically we can apply it directly to what we’re doing with our Activator project.  Instead of just learning about finance academically, I go home after school and apply what I’ve learned to the books of the company I’m working with. It adds a huge amount of real-world value.”

Kall, originally from Ottawa, applied to UNB because the school offers such a comprehensive entrepreneurial program.

“I moved up here specifically for this program. So to be in my second year now and kind of realizing all the things I was looking forward to coming in has been really rewarding.”

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