The University of New Brunswick’s ambitious entrepreneurial program got a boost Thursday when the Royal Bank of Canada announced a $1 million donation.

Canada’s largest bank said in a statement it is making a leadership gift of $1 million to support innovation and entrepreneurship education at UNB’s Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, or TME.

The TME program has sparked or contributed to some fascinating startups, including the past two winners in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition – TotalPave and Castaway Golf.

“Canada’s largest financial institution is investing in youth entrepreneurship,” said Kayley Reed, a TME alumna and co-founder of conscious clothing company Wear Your Label. “How great is that? UNB’s TME program was integral to getting our company to where it is today. Now, the RBC Innovative Action Fund will create more opportunities for students at UNB to discover their potential as entrepreneurs and meet today’s challenges with innovation.”

The key to the program, led by Chair Dhirendra Shukla, is that the entrepreneurship program is embedded in the heart of the engineering school. It means that students with the ideas and technical abilities learn how to develop those ideas into businesses, often in partnership with business students.

The TME program also runs the Summer Institute, which helps to teach a range of entrepreneurs the values of design and human experience as they develop their products.

“RBC has a long and distinguished history of supporting innovation at UNB, and I am honoured to accept this gift,” UNB President Eddy Campbell said at a reception in Fredericton. “UNB has been rated best in the nation for teaching entrepreneurship. This investment will build on the success of our programs and create new opportunities for our students to turn their ideas into products and services.”

The statement said the RBC Innovative Action Fund will support a variety of experiential activities associated with the TME program, creating new opportunities for students as well as members of the community. These activities will include:

• RBC idea, student pitch and product design competitions;

• An RBC Lunch and Learn guest lecture series that brings business people with national and international experience into our classrooms;

• An RBC Technology Commercialization Program Fund, to help students move from the idea stage to working models of their products;

• An RBC Export Marketing Fund that will enable the proponents of well-developed start-up businesses to explore new markets outside of New Brunswick;

• An RBC Mentor-in-Residence program with national-class mentors;

• An annual leadership conference, focusing on business leadership in an era of global change; and

• The creation of the RBC Innovative Action Room, a new space for meetings, consultations and mentorship events.

“UNB is changing the conversation about business development in New Brunswick for a generation of new entrepreneurs,” said Shukla. “This gift from RBC will ensure that our programs can continue to develop, expanding UNB’s role as a regional and national leader in entrepreneurship education.”