Innovation Insights

Innovate Niagara’s Growing Network of Incubators
“Innovate Niagara is proud to have leveraged existing infrastructure to bring this concept to fruition…”

BY JEFF CHESEBROUGH

Over the last few years, Innovate Niagara has been building a network of incubators, launched with the Generator at one and Goodman School of Business BioLinc facility, and recently expanded with iHub, an educational research and innovation incubator in partnership between the District School Board of Niagara and Brock University. These business incubators provide programs and assistance to nurture the successful development of start-up companies through an array of business resources and support services. A key benefit of sector-specific incubators is the synergy that happens between portfolio companies, which often offer complimentary services that allow for them to partner on projects and grow exponentially.

In 2010, based on the collective successes of stakeholders, Innovate Niagara (then known as nGen) was able to launch the state-of-the-art technology facility the Generator at one. In addition to adding a $3-million full-service interactive media production facility, the space included a business incubator containing some of the brightest minds in the sector. the Generator at one is currently running at capacity and has had graduating tenants move into offices of their own. Those companies now employ over 70 people.

In 2012, Brock University announced the establishment of BioLinc, an incubator that would be part of the Innovate Niagara family. BioLinc started accepting clients for tenancy in the summer of 2013. BioLinc is a bioscience, biotechnology and biomanufacturing facility housed within the $114.1-million Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Complex at Brock University. BioLinc helps transform today’s leading-edge research opportunities into tomorrow’s robust business opportunities by providing students, researchers and private sector companies with a forum to connect, collaborate and commercialize concepts.

We are very excited that this September, a recent collaboration between the District School Board of Niagara and Innovate Niagara will provide start-up companies working out of the newly minted iHub Educational Research and Innovation incubator in St. Catharines with more support in bringing their products to market.

The iHub is a partnership between the DSBN and Brock University and is the first educational technology incubator in North America to be located inside a K-12 school facility. Housed inside 2,100 square feet at the DSBN Academy in St. Catharines, the Educational Research and Innovation Hub will support 10 original start-up companies. The collaborative atmosphere of the iHub promotes discussion, idea sharing and creativity amongst educators, researchers, graduate students, entrepreneurs and education technology companies.

“The Innovation Hub (iHub) is a place where Canadian educational technology companies are connected directly to students and teachers who provide crucial insight and feedback on products being developed,” says Dino Miele, DSBN Chief Information Officer. “Having the support of Innovate Niagara will give companies access to mentorship and resources to move from product development to commercialization.”

“We feel this partnership will enhance the prospects of long-term success for these businesses,” adds Miele.

This facility will help to encourage innovative entrepreneurship as a viable career path among youth, and provide a direct link for new business ventures to draw upon the talent and enthusiasm of the emerging generation. The ability for these educational tech companies to develop and validate their software in a classroom setting breaks down a huge barrier for many of Innovate Niagara’s clients.

Innovate Niagara is proud to have leveraged existing infrastructure to bring this concept to fruition and provide a support network for start-ups that is desperately needed in this industry, all happening right here in Niagara.

Jeff Chesebrough is the CEO of Innovate Niagara and director of innovation and incubation at Brock University. For more information, please visit www.innovateniagara.com.

Follow on twitter @innovateniagara