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MaRS Discovery District Restructures Amid Funding Challenges

MaRS | Jun 11, 2024

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MaRS Discovery District Job Cuts 20 Jobs and Looks to Operate a Leaner Business Model

Approximately 20 positions, including several top-level responsibilities, were eliminated as a part of a recent major restructure at MaRS Discovery District, one of Canada's leading government funded innovation support organizations. Amidst financial challenges, MaRS looks to reduce hierarchy and move towards a more agile and lean structure in order to better allocate resources to programming that supports founders and encourages ecosystem engagement.

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Since its founding in 2000, MaRS has expanded its support to include a variety of tech industries, but its initial focus was on the medical and allied sciences. It has been crucial in helping businesses with advisory services and in creating venture capital projects like Graphite Ventures and the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund.

Alison Nankivell, CEO, MaRS stated:

“Our path forward necessitates changes toward a more agile and lean organizational structure that reduces hierarchy and leadership roles in favor of a reallocation of resources to support programming that more effectively supports founders, fosters even greater ecosystem collaboration, and ultimately increases our impact.”

Financial Overview and Key Departures

  • Since 2019, MaRS's non-government revenue drastically decreased from $29.1 million to just $10.1 million.
  • Total sales revenue declined 40% from $49.3 million in 2019 to $29.6 million in the fiscal year 2023.
  • In spite of lower income, employee costs grew by 2.5% to $23.9 million from the year prior.
  • Yung Wu, the former CEO received a 37% pay raise from $475,000 in 2019 to $650,625 in 2023.

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  • Less than two years after receiving a sizable promotion and pay increase, Krista Jones, Chief Delivery Officer (earned $346,000 annually), made her exit announcement at the end of June.
  • Nicole Barry, the Chief Financial Officer (earned $326,000), is also departing from the company.

Controversies

  • Provincial and federal funding account for two thirds of MaRS's income. The financial strain has increased due to recent decreases in these grants. Its financial deal with the Ontario government, which provided $10 million annually for two years, ended two months ago. Furthermore, future funding is questionable as some federal funds terminated at the end of 2023.
  • MaRS is housed in 55,000 square feet at Toronto's Waterfront Innovation Centre and 1.5 million square feet in downtown Toronto. There has been debate over MaRS's real estate endeavours, with some speculating that it prioritizes real estate over innovation.

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Conclusion

Despite the structural and financial obstacles, MaRS remains dedicated to helping high-growth businesses and promoting innovation in Canada's tech sector.  For the organization to maintain its impact and sustainability, it needs to increase engagement with industry and the charitable sector.


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