Clean Economy, Innovation Chair tackles sustainable economic solutions

The Jarislowsky Chair in Clean Economy and Innovation
Faculty of Social Sciences building interior
Amidst increasing public demand for equitable, climate-friendly policies in a low-carbon future, the University of Ottawa and the Jarislowsky Foundation have joined forces to endow a $4-million Chair to drive clean innovation and generate solutions for green economic growth.

“We’re very excited to launch this new research chair. This will strengthen uOttawa’s ability to influence economic policies that deliver real-world solutions to the challenge of transitioning to a low-carbon economy,” says uOttawa president Jacques Frémont.

The Chair will be based at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Rather than pure research, it will focus on motivating governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the public to form a broad coalition of support for clean innovation.

“I would call this an activist Chair, for someone who is not only advancing knowledge but is in the public sphere, advocating for changes that will improve our lives,” says Victoria Barham, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

The Foundation’s $2 million gift for the Jarislowsky Chair in Clean Economy and Innovation is the first major donation announced under uOttawa’s reIMAGINE campaign.  The University is matching the gift, contributing $2 million as part of uOttawa’s overall commitment to mitigate climate change.  

“This is our reIMAGINE campaign in action,” added Jacques Frémont, “bringing visionary donors such as the Jarislowsky Foundation onboard to help nurture the next generation of changemakers and enable research with the power to transform Canada and the world.”    

Stephen Jarislowsky, one of Canada’s leading philanthropists and business titans, set up the Foundation based on excellence and ethics to advance education, medicine and the arts. He has since endowed 42 Chairs at Canadian universities.

“We need creative, practical ideas to propel clean innovation forward while ensuring the Canadian economy prospers,” says Jarislowsky.  

“That transformation requires collaboration among the best minds at universities, in government, and in business, and I believe supporting the University of Ottawa’s leadership on climate economics can bring these partnerships about.” 

Targeted tax incentives to encourage the development of clean energy sectors, nimble regulatory design, ways to encourage public investment and decarbonization, structure border carbon tariffs and promote green procurement and infrastructure are among the Chair’s expected focus.  

Broad search launched

The university will conduct a search and hopes to fill the Chair in the coming months. Applicants should combine research expertise with a track record of driving changes to public policy and business practices, says Barham.

Balancing equitable prosperity with protecting the planet is the existential question of our time, Barham points out.

The chairholder will train and mentor students in the public engagement skills necessary to influence climate economics and will bring international experts in clean innovation together through networks, conferences and workshops,

“The Chair will anchor the critical mass of experts we are assembling to chart Canada’s competitive way forward as we move towards our 2050 net-zero energy goal,” says Frémont.   

The Jarislowsky Foundation has also supported the Global Fellows and Research Program in Clean Innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute. That program brings the focus and perspectives of international scholars to bear on Canadian economic and sustainability issues.

The Institute’s success was critical in paving the way for this Chair, Barham stresses.

The University’s history of engaging in research on climate change, combined with the networks it has built among anglophone and francophone politicians and policymakers, mean the chairholder will be well-positioned to influence Canada’s climate change response, says Barham.

Budget 2021 already reflects uOttawa’s influence. The budget promised a suite of federal investment in key areas uOttawa researchers have proposed, including tax credits for technology to capture and store carbon, and incentives to produce green hydrogen.

Canada – and the world – are at a turning point in confronting climate change and seizing the opportunities that reducing greenhouse gas emissions offer, says Barham. The new Chair will provide vision and leadership at a critical time.

“This is one of the times where Canada could get it right,” Barham says.  
“We need to have the right people advocating for the decisions that can make an enormous difference to all of us.”

The new Chair is only the latest announcement in uOttawa’s plan to embody the entire community’s commitment to reduce the impacts of climate change. Research priorities, teaching and training opportunities, and structural changes to make the campus more sustainable are all focused around this central principle, says Frémont.

Environmental sustainability is a core tenet of the University of Ottawa, as demonstrated by the recent decision to divest all its direct equity in fossil fuel holdings by 2023 and all indirect holdings by 2030.