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Blackberry bust has Canada needing a new research driver

Robert Baker can’t wait to finish his electrical engineering degree at the University of Waterloo and get away from the withering Canadian technology company down the street that used to draw the top students -- BlackBerry Ltd.

Joining BlackBerry after graduation “was always a dream job,” said Baker, 21, munching on a bag of carrots at the engineering school about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southwest of Toronto. “Not so much anymore,” he said, adding he plans to head to California after graduation.

Canada’s reputation as a technology innovator was diminished after the smartphone maker announced last month a surprise $934 million pretax writedown for unsold phones, and said it would fire 4,500 workers -- almost 40 percent of its employees. The world’s 11th-largest economy is already short on research drivers like Nortel Networks Corp., which filed for bankruptcy and was broken up and sold in parts to foreign tech companies. BlackBerry’s current woes may further crimp spending budgets that haven’t returned to levels of a decade ago.

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