News Release
November 9, 2020

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Innovation and Industry), the Honourable Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities, and Toronto Mayor John Tory today announced a partnership model with Toronto’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) that rapidly connects the expertise in HEIs to the City’s research needs. This new model allows the City to put forward research priorities to Toronto’s HEIs, who source multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional teams of faculty and student experts to help address important and urgent research needs. The current pilot focuses on eight research projects that support the City’s COVID-19 recovery. Representing Minister Bains at the announcement was the Honourable Ali Ehsassi, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Innovation and Industry) and Member of Parliament for Willowdale.

In March, the Mayor’s Economic Support and Recovery Task Force identified an opportunity to collaboratively undertake research to address urgent COVID-19 needs with Toronto’s HEIs – Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College, OCAD University, Ryerson University, Seneca College, University of Toronto, and York University. In partnership with eCampusOntario, the City and the HEIs designed a system to rapidly intake research priorities from the City and source academic experts and students to help the City address important and urgent research needs.

City staff put forward research proposals related to priorities set out by Toronto’s Office of Recovery and Rebuild. HEIs expressed interest in the proposals based on their expertise, and the City selected partners and formed project teams to best meet the City’s research needs. Eight research projects are moving forward under the new partnership, providing the City with valuable insight to support COVID-19 response and recovery.

This partnership model will be made permanent, creating an ongoing pathway for the City and Toronto HEIs to collaborate on research priorities.

The topics of the first eight research projects as part of the partnership pilot are as follows:

  • The association between socio-demographic characteristics and COVID-19 incidence and severity
  • Economic and labour market trends facing the city over the next three to five years
  • Supply disruption risk for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procurement (this project is now completed)
  • Low-cost decontamination process for respirators and disposable N95 masks
  • Digital access and better understanding of who is underserved and why
  • Ambient air quality impacts from COVID-19
  • Telework – GHG Emission Impacts & Employee Performance
  • Innovations in tax filing to assist vulnerable residents in accessing valuable income tax benefits such as means-tested housing or child care fee subsidies

Research projects are being funded by the City and Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation, and is funded by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Toronto’s HEIs are making substantial contributions of faculty and student expertise. Students are gaining jobs and valuable experience.

More information about these projects is available at
A backgrounder providing additional details about this partnership can be found online.


This partnership is a component of the CivicLabTO program to create a more systemic approach to collaboration between the City and Toronto’s eight universities and colleges. In 2019, the City Manager established an Academic Partnership table to promote strategic collaboration opportunities. In 2020, City Council adopted the Advancing a New Culture of Innovation and Partnership report which recommended the implementation of the CivicLabTO program to create a more systematic approach to collaboration between the City and its eight universities and colleges. This includes collaboration on research projects, program innovation focused on solutions to complex City challenges and opportunities; a collaboration summit; an interactive website open to HEI faculty and students, and City staff with resources and information to support collaboration opportunities.

The City’s website is updated daily with the latest health advice and information about City services, social supports and economic recovery measures. Check for answers to common questions before contacting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline or 311.


“The COVID-19 virus has heightened the City’s need for research and innovation so that we can truly understand the impacts this pandemic has had on our city and its residents. I am pleased that the City has established a partnership model with Toronto’s Higher Education Institutions to collaborate on its research priorities. This pilot is a good example of all three levels of government and Toronto HEIs working together to achieve mutual beneficial goals towards the rebuilding and recovery efforts once the pandemic is over. Thank you to all the partners who came together to achieve this new model, and to the federal and provincial governments for helping to fund the research projects through research funder Mitacs.”
– Mayor John Tory

“This collaboration with Toronto’s higher education institutions charts a path for a faster recovery from COVID-19 and lays the foundation for a brighter tomorrow. I cannot overstate the value of partnerships like this one. Our partnership has grown from one initially intended to accelerate our ability to understand COVID-19 impacts into a fulsome research program that will rapidly deliver data-driven solutions to complex metropolitan concerns.”
– Dr. Jennifer McKelvie, Councillor Scarborough-Rough Park, Chair of the Academic Institution and Industry Tables

“Our government recognizes that research and innovation are important ways to better understand and manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is heartening to see so many higher education institutions partnering with government to delve into some of today’s biggest challenges.”
– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Innovation and Industry)

“This partnership will offer an exceptional opportunity to leverage the research capabilities of Ontario’s colleges and universities. I am thrilled to see a collaborative response to some of the City of Toronto’s pandemic recovery initiatives. Collaboration is critical to our province’s COVID-19 recovery and I value the leadership of our post-secondary institutions during this time when Ontario needs it most.”
– The Honourable Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities

“As Chair of the working group that worked to realize this innovative partnership, I am thrilled to see it coming to fruition. At a time when cooperation is essential to mount the most effective pandemic response possible, our group worked together to co-design a streamlined process to support City of Toronto research priorities, with incredible results.

eCampusOntario is pleased to support connecting our campuses with the City to address urgent research priorities brought on by the pandemic. By engaging students and issuing micro-credentials for their work on these projects we are promoting the development of innovation literacy skills. Together, we are building effective solutions to our current challenges that can provide a clearer path to social and economic recovery.”
– Dr. Robert Luke, CEO, eCampus Ontario

“Partnering with the City of Toronto on this important research highlights the critical role Mitacs can play helping municipalities recover from the pandemic and be more resilient in the future. We can provide this support thanks to generous investments from the Governments of Canada or Ontario. Indeed, we are very proud to work together to support a COVID-19 recovery for Canadians.”
– Dr. John Hepburn, CEO and Scientific Director, Mitacs

“From the early days of this pandemic, Canada’s universities and colleges have stood up to support our country’s recovery and restart efforts. This unique partnership will be a role model for collaboration between public and private sector organizations and will provide new avenues for faculty and students to help support the COVID-19 recovery through important and urgent research.”
– Dr. Mohamed Lachemi, President and Vice-chancellor of Ryerson University

“Seneca is delighted to partner with the City of Toronto, provincial and federal governments, our postsecondary colleagues and community partners on research that helps in the response to COVID-19. Faculty and students have been critical resources during the pandemic, providing creative solutions for economic recovery and supporting those in need.”
– David Agnew, President, Seneca College

“We welcome the City of Toronto’s collaborative approach to these pressing issues. The University of Toronto is very pleased to contribute to this initiative, applying our research, leveraging our expertise, and harnessing the creativity of our faculty, staff and students to tackle some of the city’s biggest challenges. Strong universities support strong cities, and vice versa.”
– Dr. Meric Gertler, President, University of Toronto

“Funding, developing and sustaining a strong network of community and industry research that taps into the individual strengths of Toronto’s creative post-secondary institutions is a clear demonstration of a city on a mission to engage, respond and rejuvenate.

I want to thank the City of Toronto for recognizing the work of public colleges in the applied research field. Whether in advanced manufacturing, digital medical technologies, entrepreneurship or social innovation, our colleges have a critical role to play in advancing our understanding of the communities we serve and the industries with whom we partner. Centennial College is proud to collaborate with the City of Toronto on this important initiative.”
– Dr. Craig Stephenson, President and CEO, Centennial College

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with unprecedented and far-reaching challenges, but also with a moment of extraordinary opportunity: as we recover, the City of Toronto can re-emerge as a healthier, smarter city. Higher education plays a valuable role in this recovery process, as we organically forge strong ties between students, communities and industry alike. At George Brown College, we have a long history of conducting applied research in partnership with local businesses while training students in new approaches, methods, standards and technologies. We look forward to the future of this wonderful opportunity to combine the collective expertise of our institutions.”
– Anne Sado, President, George Brown College.

“As a leading institution in disaster and emergency management, York University is well-positioned to contribute to our understanding of the social, economic and health impacts of the pandemic as examined through an interdisciplinary lens, focused on the complex challenges facing Toronto. More generally, I am particularly pleased to see the creation of this unique partnership model to facilitate collaboration on the pressing issues facing the City. Tackling complex global problems with local impact requires the collective expertise and resources of government, business, communities and post-secondary education institutions to maximize the impact of our research and innovation efforts. We look forward to building this research collaboration as we work together to build a brighter future.”
– Rhonda L. Lenton, President and Vice-Chancellor, York University

“Humber College is pleased to be involved with the City of Toronto’s digital access project, connecting key community organizations that have first-hand experience and insights with the City. As this innovative project model evolves, we also look forward to potential future opportunities to collaborate further.”
– Chris Whitaker, President and CEO, Humber College

“Creatives play a critical role in the City of Toronto, especially in its recovery from COVID-19. In partnership with the City, Toronto’s higher education institutions and the governments of Ontario and Canada, OCAD U will continue to be an essential city-builder through collaborative research, art, design and strategy.”
– Ana Serrano, OCAD University President and Vice-Chancellor

Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Media Relations