APLU names Lakehead as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University

Lakehead becomes only the second Canadian university to receive this international designation

Plaque unveiling

Lakehead University President Dr. Gillian Siddall, left, unveiled a plaque with Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead's Vice-President, Research and Innovation; and Ellen MacKay, Director, Innovation Development, on Friday, Nov. 3. 

November 3, 2023 – Thunder Bay and Orillia

In recognition of its strong commitment to economic engagement, today the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) designated Lakehead University as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University.

This designation acknowledges North American public research universities working with public and private sector partners in their cities, states, provinces, and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities, including innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development. 

“On behalf of Lakehead University, we are very excited to have been recognized by the APLU as an institution that helps foster innovation and prosperity in a variety of ways in the communities we serve,” said Dr. Gillian Siddall, Lakehead University’s President and Vice-Chancellor.

“I would like to thank the stakeholders who participated in our engagement activities and congratulate the members of our working group on attaining this designation.”

Lakehead received the IEP designation after an independent panel reviewed the university’s application, including an internal review and analysis of its economic engagement activities conducted with outside stakeholder input.

“Lakehead’s greatest accomplishments arise from our unique role as the region’s primary producer of research, knowledge, technologies, and the highly trained graduates needed to support both a resource- and knowledge-based economy,” said Dr. Andrew Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

“Our economic development priorities will always be the prosperity of our communities, responding to the needs and diversity of our region, and closely aligning with the social, cultural, and economic realities and aspirations of Northwestern and Central Ontario,” Dr. Dean said.

“We feel proud to be in the company of other universities whose values align with ours,” said Ellen MacKay, Director, Innovation Development.

“This designation not only showcases Lakehead’s role in the economic development ecosystem, but also our commitment to furthering our economic efforts within our communities.”

APLU’s Commission on Economic and Community Engagement (CECE), which manages the designation process, is a leader in North American efforts to help public research universities plan, assess, and communicate their work in local, regional, national, and global economic development and community engagement.

The CECE “Economic Engagement Framework” includes tools for university self-assessment, metrics determination, and economic impact analysis, all of which Lakehead used as part of its application process.

“Economic development is a major pillar of the work of universities,” said APLU President Mark Becker.

“From talent development to pathbreaking research to entrepreneurship and beyond, institutions have a central role to play in economic development. We’re pleased to recognize Lakehead University for its commitment to engaging its community around these issues to advance regional economic development.”

Lakehead began pursuing an IEP designation in 2017. A comprehensive self-study was conducted with close to 300 internal and external stakeholders that was central to the designation application process, and which helped the university identify three areas of institutional strength in economic engagement. 

The application process also involved identifying areas for growth and improvement for Lakehead’s economic engagement enterprise and developing an associated improvement plan for enhanced communications, entrepreneurship and talent development, and sector/industry engagement.

The work conducted by Lakehead throughout its self-study and application process demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement that is vital to universities and their local and regional partners.

Lakehead’s self-study identified its areas of strength as human capital and opportunity development, research and development, and reputation and partnerships. Lakehead’s accomplishments include the level and quality of knowledge, skills and abilities of its graduates, its high-quality undergraduate and graduate research programs, and its experiential learning opportunities.

Lakehead University has also established itself as a leading research institution with 11 Canada Research Chairs and 15 revolutionary research centres and facilities while fostering an entrepreneurial economy and providing resources for start-up businesses and commercialization.

For the fourth year in a row, Lakehead has been included in the top half of the Times Higher Education 2023 list of the best universities from around the world.

Lakehead University is now one of over 80 higher education institutions designated as an IEP university and only the second university in Canada to ever receive the distinction.

Institutions that have received the IEP designation have reported significant advancement of their efforts due to the stakeholder engagement and self-study efforts undertaken in conjunction with the program.

They are leveraging their status as Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities to identify new areas of opportunity in aligning with economic development objectives. Those schools are developing deeper engagement with others in their regional innovation ecosystems and making changes within the institution to expand their impact.

Applications for the designation are evaluated by a panel of reviewers representing other universities and regional and national partners. Scoring was based on a range of criteria emphasizing universities’ development of their economic engagement enterprise, their planning efforts around economic engagement, strategic communications around these efforts, and participation in encouraging economic engagement among peer institutions. 








Media: For more information or interviews, please contact Brandon Walker, Media, Communications and Marketing Associate, at (807) 343-8110 ext. 8372 or mediarelations@lakeheadu.ca.


Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2023 World Universities Rankings for the fourth consecutive year, and the number one university in the world with fewer than 9,000 students in THE’s 2023 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit www.lakeheadu.ca.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the US, Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of more than 250 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 5.0 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $49.5 billion in university-based research. Visit www.aplu.org.