Memorial University of Newfoundland has launched a pilot project that will help graduate commerce students work with startups on business development.

The Supporting the Local Innovation and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem project has a budget of $278,000, funded equally by a grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and a donation from Killick Capital CEO (and MUN alum) Mark Dobbin.

The 14-month pilot will pay for 27 fellowships for graduate students from the Faculty of Business Administration, most of whom will work with early-stage companies with the goal of improving their business model.

“We noticed that these early-stage startups have an incredible amount of technical knowledge but sometimes do not have the expertise or the time to deal with business-related challenges, such as marketing analysis, setting up accounting systems or financial projections,” said MUN Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Paula Mendonça in an article in the Memorial University Gazette.

“Memorial business students have the skillsets and insight to help startups with their business-related problems.”

Some graduate students – four of them this year – will work within the university’s Translational R&D Program to evaluate the potential of their research for commercialization. The pilot project will also provide funds for students and faculty to travel for meetings of the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic.

The Gazette said the initiative aims to provide startups with creative solutions, new insight, knowledge and resources. Meanwhile, the students will gain experience, industry connections and coaching so they can help bring innovations generated at the university to the market.

The program is free for startups, while the students will receive fellowships worth $4,500 per semester. Between four and six startups will be matched with students each semester. ACOA said in a statement that four matches have been made for the spring semester and students and startups can apply in August for the fall semester.

“Motivated graduate students are gaining practical leadership skills while startups move forward with their innovative ideas,” said MUN Vice-President of Research Neil Bose in a statement. “This is an exciting investment in our future business leaders.”