Alumnus Gerald Heffernan Contributes $5 Million Toward CEIE Entrepreneurship Programs at U of T Engineering

January 31, 2014 

Gerald Heffernan
Gerald Heffernan (MMS 4T3)

In December, alumnus Gerald Heffernan (MMS 4T3) expanded his legacy of support for entrepreneurship at U of T Engineering through a $5 million gift. Half of his contribution will fund the Heffernan Commercialization Fellowships, and half will provide space for The Entrepreneurship Hatchery at its new home within the Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CEIE), now named the Heffernan Hatchery in his honour.

“On behalf of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, I would like to extend my deep gratitude to Mr. Heffernan for his continued generous support of U of T Engineering,” said Dean Cristina Amon. “His latest gift will further strengthen the spirit of entrepreneurship which he has helped to instill in our students over many years.”

Gerald and Geraldine Heffernan are so supportive of entrepreneurship at U of T Engineering that on the occasion of their recent seventieth wedding anniversary, they encouraged others to pledge contributions to the Hatchery in lieu of gifts. Their request has already resulted in significant additional support, demonstrating others’ respect for the Heffernan’s ideals and their confidence in U of T Engineering’s entrepreneurship initiatives.

Since 1997, Heffernan/Co-Steel Innovation Post-Graduate Fellowships have enabled graduate students to transfer their research into successful businesses.

“The Faculty has been overwhelmed with outstanding submissions for the Fellowships and, until now, only equipped to select a very few,” says Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor and Vice-Dean of Research Edward (Ted) Sargent. “Now even more outstanding Canadian engineers and applied scientists will be able to transform their innovations into commercial products with economic and societal impact.”

Past recipients have included Computer Science graduate Anand Agarawala, whose rapid-growth start-up company BumpTop was successfully sold to Google for an estimated $28 million; and Carlos de Oliveira (CivE MASc 0T6), whose research on earthquake-resistant structural casting led to the founding of Cast Connex Corp.  The most recent recipients include:

  • Oleg Chebotarev (MechE 1T0, MASc 1T2), who is developing a microfluidic platform that mimics blood vessels for improved drug screening;
  • Garry Liu (Medical Biophysics MASc 2006, PhD 2013) from Innovere Medical, who is creating wireless headsets for MRI machines;
  • Martin Labreque (CompE 0T3, MASc 0T6, PhD 1T1), who is developing a configurable sensor glove which provides computer input without the use of a keyboard or mouse;
  • Adam McKinty (Chemistry PhD 2013), who is developing a novel chemical catalyst with applications in areas like pharmaceuticals, petroleum and skin and hair care products;
  • Andrew Paton (EngSci 0T5, ChemE PhD 0T3), who is developing high-efficiency light-emitting diodes and cost-effective solar cells.

“There’s a lot of money out there for entrepreneurs with prototypes, but there’s a gap for people who are still getting to the prototyping stage,” says Paton. “That’s what makes the Heffernan Commercialization Fellowship so great – it fills that gap.”

Heffernan’s gift to the Hatchery will help the Faculty expand its hands-on, immersive entrepreneurship training starting at the undergraduate level. He has seen firsthand the challenges and mentorship the Hatchery provides and the promising products and services students have developed within the program. The Hatchery’s new space within the CEIE will give students access to group workspace and fabrication facilities that encourage collaboration and creativity as students put new ideas to the test.

Heffernan’s contribution to the Hatchery at the CEIE is the latest major gift toward Engineering’s component of U of T’s $2-billion Boundless Campaign. Alumni who wish to join him in assisting student entrepreneurs are encouraged to contact the Hatchery to volunteer or make a contribution toward the CEIE.