Verschuren Centre incorporates, breaks from Cape Breton University

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The Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment is branching off from Cape Breton University.

It has incorporated into a not-for-profit, stand-alone research and technology centre for commercialization of cutting-edge technologies and businesses.

"The increased research, innovation and development activity this change will allow is good for the university, it is good for Cape Breton Island, and it is good for the province of Nova Scotia," said CBU president David Dingwall in making the announcement Wednesday.

The Verschuren Centre was established on the CBU campus in 2009. It's been supported by the university in terms of services, but its activities have always been fully self-funded.

Holly Conners/CBC
Holly Conners/CBC

The key motive for becoming a stand-alone entity is governance.

"It's the independence ... it's allowing the flexibility to move fast," said the centre's namesake and CBU chancellor, Annette Verschuren.

She noted a smaller board of directors is able to respond more quickly to business opportunities in terms of entering contracts, fundraising and managing its own accounting.

"The university structure is different," she said. "There's layers of places in which approvals would have to be made ... The Verschuren Centre has a totally different mandate and needs to work with the university, the researchers, the talent, etc., in the university. But to execute is key. And that's what this new governance model will do for us."

Holly Conners/CBC
Holly Conners/CBC

The Verschuren Centre is attracting new businesses from across Canada, the United States and Europe to come to Cape Breton to pilot their innovations, said CBU in a news release.

The scale and the speed of the centre's new business model will be important in helping to see those young companies through the cash crunch of the growing years — what Verschuren Centre CEO Beth Mason calls the "valley of death."

"Because no small company who's in the valley of death has the money to wait two years for you to get around to trying to help in some way," she said.

Verschuren Centre Inc. has signed an operating agreement with CBU, which will remain a partner, with Dingwall sitting on the centre's board of directors.

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