As we look ahead to the second half of 2017, there is one institution in the startup community to keep an eye on in the next 6-12 months, as it has the potential to change the landscape. That institution is Dalhousie University.

The region’s startup community is maturing and includes more companies than ever. At its core is a group of scaling companies that are gaining more and more international clients. Its biggest members book tens of millions in annual revenues.

The question now is how to keep it growing. That doesn’t just mean creating more companies. It means creating companies whose products can truly disrupt markets, and that often requires deep scientific research. It also means we need to create the ecosystem needed to nurture these scaling companies.

What happens at Dal in the next year or so will have more impact than anything else on developing that ecosystem. That’s so because (a) Dal is the region’s leading research institution, (b) the next stage of startup growth will need a greater emphasis on commercializing scientific research, and (c) Dal is at a crossroads with its innovation program.

Entrevestor’s research in 2014 and 2015 showed that startups affiliated with universities gain revenue at twice the pace of the overall startup population — a stat that highlights the importance of university research in developing products that disrupt markets. (Disclaimer: Dalhousie is a client of Entrevestor.)

More R&D is conducted at Dal than any other Atlantic Canadian university. According to Research Infosource, Dalhousie was the No. 16 research university in Canada in 2016, accounting for $141.9 million in R&D. (Memorial University of Newfoundland was No. 19 with $102.4 million and the University of New Brunswick No. 27 with $41 million.)

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