Keeping the momentum going

Professor Mark Huson prepares to step into his new role as academic director for CDL-Rockies.

When Professor Mark Huson first began collaborating with Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies (CDL-Rockies), based at the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, he knew he was getting involved with something that would benefit both his students and the province in big ways.

Four years later, as the new academic director for CDL-Rockies, Huson is hoping to expand its impact even further.

"CDL-Rockies is an important collaboration between the Haskayne and Alberta Schools of Business that directly impacts entrepreneurship and innovation in the province,” says Dean Kyle Murray.

“I'm proud to say that we are strengthening that relationship with the appointment of Dr. Mark Huson, Dianne and Irving Kipnes Chair in Finance and Development, as the new academic director. Mark will play an important role in educating and mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs nurtured through CDL.”

CDL-Rockies delivers an objective-based program for science- and technology-based startups, with a particular focus on energy evolution and the future of food. Each startup in the program meets with mentors who, over the course of a nine-month term, work with founders to achieve key objectives critical to accelerating their speed to commercialization.

CDL-Rockies is part of a wider network of 11 CDL sites around the world, with five sites based in Canada. A close collaboration between the Universities of Calgary and Alberta, CDL-Rockies is supported by mentors and scientists from UCalgary and complemented by scientists — and now an academic director — from the University of Alberta.

Huson first became involved with CDL-Rockies in 2018 when the Haskayne School of Business reached out to him with the opportunity to invite U of A MBA students to apply for the CDL course, an experiential learning course where students work directly with startups participating in the CDL program. As a result, Huson linked CDL-Rockies to two of his graduate-level courses.

“This is useful in a lot of ways,” says Huson. “One, it helps the startup immediately. Two, it teaches students confidence that they can learn and apply their knowledge very rapidly. It’s something that’s harder to teach in an exam-based course.”

Huson took over as academic director for CDL-Rockies on July 1 for a three-year term, replacing Professor Michael Robinson from the Haskayne School of Business as he enters retirement.

"After five years as academic director for CDL-Rockies, it's time to pass the torch on," says Robinson. "I have full confidence that the program's course is in good hands with Mark at the helm, and look forward to watching the course continue to grow and positively impact the University of Alberta and UCalgary's MBA students."

In his new role, Huson hopes to keep the momentum Robinson created going by developing new pedagogy. In particular, Huson plans to design new modules to assist students through the often steep learning curve they encounter when they become embedded with their startup.

“The breadth of tasks they can be asked to do is mind-boggling and they may not have a lot of comfort with all of it,” he says. “But because of their business background, we can upload that skill set quickly through learning modules so they can provide benefits immediately to their venture.”

Huson is also focused on continuing to bring benefits to the students and ventures here at home as part of building a more robust startup culture in the province.

“In Alberta, we’re working on strengthening our innovation ecosystem so that more people speak startup language or have startup mindsets,” he says. “If every year I can create more people who have some idea about what the terminology means, have some idea about what it means to create a scalable business that can become massive, then there’s just more information and more thoughtfulness about this."

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