Almost two months after the end of the race for the White House, skepticism remains high about Donald Trump’s policies on science and technology. Much has been written on the potential effects of Trump on STEM; some scientists have expressed concerns about how Trump’s presidency will affect research and development in the United States, and how that will play out around the world. And with the president-elect himself denying human-caused climate change and linking autism to childhood vaccination, it only becomes easier to share such apprehensions. For Murray Rudd, a Canadian scientist at the Emory University in Atlanta, “a move back to Canada will be something [he] will be looking into.”
The truth of the matter, however, is that so little has been said about science and technology policies on the campaign trail that no one really knows what to expect. Trump’s denial on climate change, for example, could turn into a means of economic growth. It could offer incentives to enhance nuclear energy funding to design the next generation of reactors while creating high tech industry jobs. Similarly, the repatriation tax he is going to impose on companies who have moved overseas can generate as much as multiple years’ worth of government research and development funds. This excess money could be used to address pressing healthcare issues, such as advancing the country’s quest to cure cancer or reduce cardiac death rates.
The Trump presidency’s effect on Skule, therefore, remains to some extent unclear. I, however, am going to argue that regardless of Trump’s policies on science and technology, the next four, or possibly eight, years will be an unprecedented opportunity for Skuligans to establish themselves in the industrial high tech market – at least here in Toronto.
Most graduates choose the GTA for the early stages of their career. The alumni database, with over half a million graduates, indicates around 50% are staying around upon graduation. The GTA is also attracting an increasing number of entrepreneurs every year, rapidly transforming Toronto from a major Canadian city to a world class global city. Toronto’s tech ecosystem is also growing twice as fast as anywhere else in Canada and is quickly becoming a hub for innovation.
Our very own university has enhanced its entrepreneurial infrastructure. The number of incubators on campus has increased, each attracting more and more students every year; venture capital investment has increased in tech spinoff companies; the Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship is coming closer to opening, with rumors anticipating a mid-2018 finish; and all this has happened in the span of just four to five years – not even a decade – since I started at UofT.
Canada has historically dealt with brain drain, mostly to the United States. A Trump presidency could ignite the reversal of this trend. As his fiscal policies start to take effect, the reduction in regulation could lead to the destabilization of the financial market, posing a threat to venture capital investment and therefore tech development in the United States. In such circumstances, Toronto can accelerate its quest to become the next world class city by attracting investment and top talent, some of which walk to our very own Pit every day.
There may be little we can do to influence Trump’s policies. But there is lots we can do to make the most out of them. The recent entrepreneurial trend in Toronto will only quicken with Trump in office.