David McFadden, former chair of the Ontario Centres of Excellence, told graduating students Monday that it is important that they play a role to ensure science and technology work for the betterment of society and not just for commercial or political advantage.
“Innovation will be vital if we are to deal successfully with environmental, economic and social challenges facing our society, and the world generally,” said McFadden, who received an honorary doctor of laws degrees at York’s 2012 Spring Convocation ceremony for the Faculty of Science & Engineering and the Faculty of Environmental Studies.
A member of the first graduating class of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University 42 years ago, McFadden, a partner and member of the board of trustees at Gowlings’ Toronto law office, said he hopes many of the graduates will consider becoming entrepreneurs “with a vision to introduce marketplace innovations that will contribute to the economic growth of our society and the betterment of our communities.”
He listed off many who defied the odds and brought their innovations to light, including Thomas Edison and General Electric, Ted Rogers and Rogers Communication, Michael Dell and Dell Computers, Steve Jobs and Apple, as well as Bill Gates and Microsoft.
“And in all of those cases, those companies grew to be major corporations, which have gone on to have a fundamental effect upon our society and how it operates, from the development of the light bulb to the evolution of social media,” said McFadden, who served two years as a member of the Ontario Research & Innovation Council, developing a long-term innovation strategy for Ontario.
“One thing to remember is that there will always be doubters who will question your ideas or your chances of success.” Although not every idea is a good idea, “many ideas have been choked off by critics and doubters.”
He encouraged graduating students to go for their dreams. “Canada and the world need innovators who will make our world a safer and a better place, and who will ensure that we have a sustainable economy to the benefit of everyone wherever they might live.”