Philosophy researchers to address ethical and social challenges through industry internships

Waterloo, ON —Mitacs, a national non-profit research and training organization, and the University of Waterloo’s Department of Philosophy have partnered to see graduate and postdoctoral researchers solve hands-on innovation challenges using philosophical approaches in collaboration with local partners.

A recent internship saw University of Waterloo Philosophy PhD candidate, Teresa Branch-Smith, partner with architecture firm, Philip Beesley Architects. Together, they examined philosophical constructions of life and living as it applies to a cutting-edge technique called “near-living” architecture. The project played a key role in demonstrating the potential for collaborations between philosophers and industry or non-academic partners, and set the stage for the new partnership.

The partnership aligns with the Department’s expected launch of a new Doctorate in Applied Philosophy. The program, which will be the first of kind in Canada, is based on the idea that philosophy and society can progress together when philosophical insights and theories are applied to practical problems outside academia.

A current pilot of the internship program includes several projects:

  • Developing tools to assist organizations that provide decision making, life planning, and employment support for people with developmental disabilities through applications of philosophy of science and action theory
  • Designing procedures for distinguishing hate literature from controversial speech to be implemented at a book publisher using philosophy-based constructions of ethics
  • Creating policies for residential facilities to address issues of consent for people with severe cognitive decline through applications of theories of autonomy

The new agreement for philosophy internships will be realized through Mitacs Accelerate, a national research internship program dedicated to advancing innovation in Canada through partnerships between universities and industry or non-profit organizations.  Interns transfer their skills from theory to real-world application, while the companies gain a competitive advantage by accessing high-quality research expertise.


Alejandro Adem, Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director, Mitacs

“Mitacs is proud to partner on this initiative to bring philosophical research to industry and community challenges. These internships will demonstrate new approaches to applying Canadian research in ways that will develop social and industrial innovation in Canada.”

George Dixon, Vice-President, University Research, University of Waterloo

“This partnership is an opportunity to advance a new approach to humanities education. The Mitacs internships will enable students to apply their research, contribute to Canadian innovation, and become better philosophers. They will benefit from the rich knowledge and resources of the people they work with and identify existing philosophical theories that may need to evolve because they’ve proved problematic in practice.”

Philip Beesley, Principal Architect, Philip Beesley Architecture Inc.

“Mitacs Accelerate is effective in drawing together the ingredients that make collaborations with academia really productive. Our intern brought a type of conceptual analysis from her background in philosophy that had very specific value for us. Investing in philosophy has produced a tremendous enhancement of the outcomes of our work.”


Mitacs quick facts:

  • Within Canada, Mitacs works with 60 universities, thousands of companies, and federal and provincial governments, building partnerships that support industrial and social innovation.
  • Mitacs Accelerate pairs graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from all disciplines to collaborate with industry and non-profit partners to solve business challenges.
  • In 2014–15, Mitacs supported nearly 3,200 industry-academic collaborations through Mitacs Accelerate.

Learn more:

  • To read about Philosophy intern Teresa Branch-Smith’s partnership with Philip Beesley Architects, see her success story online.
  • Find more information about Mitacs and our programs at learn how students and industry partners have benefited from participation in Mitacs Accelerate, see the results from our program surveys: Industry | Interns
  • More information about the Department of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo is available at