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ventureLAB welcomes breakthrough tech companies

York Region-based tech hub paves the way for innovations such as combatting blindness and powering self-driving wheelchairs


ventureLAB, a leading technology hub located in York Region — Canada’s second largest tech hub — announced the first cohort of companies in its Hardware Catalyst Initiative (HCI) and $8 million in resources and mentorship from founding partners, including global tech leaders AMD and Synopsys. First announced in June 2019, with $5 million in funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the HCI is Canada’s first silicon incubator, allowing breakthrough companies from southern Ontario to develop transformative hardware solutions that power the products of tomorrow, including healthcare technology, consumer electronics, telecommunications, smart energy, and connected transportation. 

The HCI features a state-of-the-art 1,500 square foot lab with specialized equipment and Electronic Design Automation (EDA) toolsets, critical for manufacturing semiconductor, silicon, or advanced hardware-based solutions. The hardware equipment can cost millions of dollars per product, causing a major barrier to entry and making it difficult for startups to commercialize products. The HCI was born out of the need to access expensive tools, lab space, investment, and industry expertise.

“The Hardware Catalyst Initiative is our solution for emerging tech companies to become competitors in the global hardware economy, which generates $7 trillion in economic activity,” says Melissa Chee, President and CEO, ventureLAB. “Without this opportunity, it’s extremely difficult for hardware and silicon startups to afford the barriers to entry. York Region’s unmatched tech expertise will ensure that HCI participants have every opportunity to hone their skills, scale their operations, and commercialize their products globally.”

Founding Partners of the HCI
To support the HCI, global tech leaders and emerging industry leaders from within York Region’s deep tech ecosystem (home to more than 4,300 tech companies) have committed up to $8 million in resources, expertise, and mentorship for the participating companies. Together, these founding partners will play a critical role in the success of Canada’s first silicon incubator:

  • AMD — As a global leader in high-performance computing, graphics and visualization technologies, AMD will provide business mentorship to HCI participants.
  • Synopsys — As a world leader in electronic design automation (EDA), Synopsys will offer licenses for design software and business mentorship for companies participating in the HCI.
  • Microart Services Inc. — As a leading contract electronics manufacturer with expertise in design, turn-key global procurement, assembly, and test engineering services for Printed Circuit Board Assemblies (PCBA) and full Box Build System Assemblies. Microart Services Inc. will contribute business and technical mentorship and workshops.
  • ReMAP — As an integrated shared ecosystem for the acceleration of the commercialization of electronics products, ReMAP will contribute business and technical mentorship and workshops.
  • Bereskin & Parr — As an internationally renowned intellectual property & technology law firm, Bereskin & Parr will contribute business and technical mentorship and workshops.
  • MNP — As one of Canada’s largest full-service chartered accountancy and business advisory firms, MNP will contribute business and technical mentorship and workshops.

“AMD is an innovation leader in the semiconductor industry, and we are excited to help found ventureLAB’s Hardware Catalyst Initiative,” says Kevin O’Neil, Corp. VP, Legal & AMD Canada Managing Director. We look forward to building on Canada’s existing hardware expertise by working with other innovative companies to push the boundaries of what is possible.”

“We are proud to be a founding partner of the Hardware Catalyst Initiative,” says Mario Dorio, Director, North America Sales, Synopsys. “Synopsys is committed to supporting tech companies building groundbreaking technologies that will continue to build on Canada’s microelectronics manufacturing capabilities, accelerate commercialization, and create new jobs.”

“We’ve got workers’ and Canadian businesses’ backs. With FedDev Ontario funding towards the Hardware Catalyst Initiative, promising tech companies will have direct access to the equipment, expertise and support needed to grow and scale locally, and compete globally.” says the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages. “Congratulations to ventureLAB, partners and the innovative companies that will benefit from this new state-of-the-art lab and incubator.”

The First Cohort of HCI Companies
To select the inaugural HCI cohort — which kicks off in February 2020 — ventureLAB issued a call for southern Ontario companies leveraging hardware and silicon technologies with breakthrough ideas that have the potential to significantly impact society. The eight companies selected will use the access to specialized equipment and industry expertise to realize their ideas, bring their products to market in an accelerated fashion, and help put Canadian talent at the forefront of global innovation.

    • Bionic-i — A hardware biotechnology company focused on augmenting vision and combating blindness with a surgically implantable device that can treat and monitor an “orphan” genetic disease, as well as rejuvenate cataract surgical patients by eliminating their need for reading glasses
    • BluMind.AI — Analog machine learning inferencing; engines for network Edge devices
    • Cyberworks Robotics — AI-based technology for autonomous self-driving wheelchairs
    • Ekidna Sensing — Will provide a rapid and critical testing solution for licensed producers in the global cannabis industry
    • Humantec Inc. | Menopod  — Manufactures the ‘Menopod’, a handheld electronic cooling device for women suffering from hot flashes during menopause
    • Micromensio — A semiconductor company developing a unique biosensing technology to provide transformative solutions for healthcare, the environment, and industry
    • TARTAN AI — A hardware company optimizing machine learning to offer processing elements and transparent memory compression technologies; the result is a reduction in the computation, storage, and communication needed when executing machine learning models on silicon.
  • Wind Shape Technology Inc. — Design and manufacture proximity sensors for electronic faucets

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Backed by $8 million in support from York Region-based technology leaders, and $5 million in support from the Government of Canada, ventureLAB’s Hardware Catalyst Initiative — Canada’s first hardware and silicon incubator — is putting Canadian talent at the forefront of global innovation by enabling eight breakthrough companies from southern Ontario to access costly equipment, accelerate time to market, and compete globally