The University of New Brunswick has received $5 million from two of its prominent alumni, Gururaj (Desh) Deshpande and Gerry Pond, to establish an entrepreneurship and innovation centre.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNB will act as a catalyst to advance innovation and entrepreneurship in New Brunswick by facilitating collaboration among entrepreneurs, young companies, and UNB students, faculty and alumni.

“As a university, we must provide opportunities for our students to stay and thrive in this province,” said UNB president Eddy Campbell. “Our graduates are the problem solvers of today and tomorrow. We can help them succeed by creating opportunities and potentially opening doors that may not otherwise have been opened. And that is what the Pond-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is all about.”

The centre will work with UNB’s already established innovation and entrepreneurship programs to create courses and mentorship opportunities for students that will provide them with a sound foundation in technical and social entrepreneurship, and give them the opportunity to experience the entrepreneurial process and explore their possibilities for success.

“Great ideas don’t go anywhere unless an entrepreneur takes it and creates a viable enterprise from it,” said Desh Deshpande. “We hope that the centre will create lots of experiential learning opportunities for students to become those entrepreneurs.”

The Pond-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will also serve as a resource for new entrepreneurs to translate their ideas into companies, products or services. The cornerstone of the centre is a grant process that will allow innovators to test their early stage ideas and prove their concepts.

As the centre grows and receives support, it is expected that its scope will broaden and reach will stretch beyond New Brunswick.

About Gerry Pond

A graduate of our Faculty of Arts in 1966, Gerry Pond has 43 years of experience in the information and communications technology sector.

He is currently the Chairman of Mariner Partners Inc., a company he co-founded in 2003. Mariner, with a staff of over 120 professionals, provides consulting and professional IT services from offices in Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton, Halifax, Regina and Calgary.

In addition to his outstanding professional achievements, Gerry has also given generously of his time, talent and resources.  He co-chairs the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation, a poverty reduction initiative for the province.  He is a director of Enterprise Saint John, Propel ICT, Atlantic Cancer Research Institute, the New Brunswick Business Council. He is a fellow of the Wallace McCain Institute and a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow. He is a past Chairman of the New Brunswick Business Council, a past Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors of UNB and a past Chairman of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Gerry’s commitment was and is enabling young entrepreneurs to succeed.  In the past 10 years, he has supported 10 technology start-up companies including Q1 Labs and Radian 6,start up companies with roots here at UNB.

In recognition of his many achievements and commitment to his province, Gerry was awarded an honorary degree from UNB in 2004 and was inducted into the New Brunswick Business Hall of Fame in 2007.

About Desh Deshpande

Gururaj (Desh) Deshpande is an entrepreneur, investor and global philanthropist.

An alumnus of UNB’s electrical engineering graduate program in 1975, Desh is the co-founded of Sycamore Networks, Inc., an optical networking company based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

He serves as a member of the MIT board, and through the Deshpande Foundation, he launched MIT’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation in 2002. The Deshpande Center was created to serve as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting research and collaboration among entrepreneurs, young companies, and MIT students, alumni, and faculty.

Long regarded as an innovation visionary, Desh continues to focus on pioneering new concepts to support innovation in all sectors and at all levels of scale. In support of that effort, Desh co-chairs President Barack Obama’s National Advisory council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Desh, along with his wife Jaishree, founded the Deshpande Foundation, which fosters social entrepreneurship by supporting a variety of non-profit organizations in India working in the areas of health, education, microcredit and agriculture.

In 2006, looking to find new ways to fuel innovation and entrepreneurship on a larger scale, the Deshpande Foundation, along with local partners, launched the Deshpande Center for Social Entrepreneurship in northern Karnataka, India. The centre serves as an experimental sandbox for social entrepreneurship serving a region that is home to more than 5 million people.

It has helped develop a midday meal program for schools that serves 1.3 million children, and supported a wide variety of projects bringing innovation to education, health, agriculture and livelihood programs.

Leveraging the experience gained at the Deshpande Center for Social Entrepreneurship in India, in 2010, the Deshpande Foundation committed $5 million to support a new innovation center, The Merrimack Valley Sandbox. Housed at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, The Merrimack Valley Sandbox will work together with local colleges and nonprofit organizations to boost entrepreneurship among students and professionals, and to develop local leadership through mentoring and seed funding programs.

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