Innovation Arena comes to Waterloo
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Expanded Health Sciences Campus to bolster regional economy and profile
A University of Waterloo partnership with the City of Kitchener to further develop the Health Sciences Campus in downtown Kitchener’s Innovation District is moving ahead.
The University-owned, 90,000-square-foot warehouse at the corner of Victoria and Joseph St. will transform into a connected health- and technology-commercialization community within Downtown Kitchener’s Innovation District. It will co-locate startups, early scaling companies and broader connections to local SMEs. The development was approved by Kitchener city council on Monday.
The “Innovation Arena” will feature shared product development labs, manufacturing and collaborative office spaces, and will also serve as a health-innovation nexus with increased partnerships and community connections. It will also be the new home of Velocity, University of Waterloo’s flagship entrepreneurship program and the only business incubator in North America that provides a full spectrum of product-development space.
“This opportunity to develop our Health Sciences Campus represents a significant milestone not just for the University of Waterloo and Velocity, but for the city and region,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “Together, we are expanding our contribution to one of the global economy’s most important sectors. And together, our citizens stand to benefit as well from the emerging health innovation.”
Hamdullahpur thanked the City of Kitchener for its investment of up to $8.5 million, and for once again supporting local entrepreneurship while bolstering the leadership of the university and city in the sphere of health innovation. About 5,000 square feet of the new space will be devoted to the city health-innovation programming and collaboration through the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre.
A new era
“This partnership marks the beginning of Velocity’s next era,” said Adrien Côté, Executive Director of Velocity. “For years, we have supported many remarkable startups and launched some of Canada’s most successful technology companies into a wide array of sectors from software platforms, electronics to biotechnology. With this purpose-built facility, we will have the opportunity to help more startups evolve into scaling companies, commercialize advanced technologies and grow in our community.”
Cote said that while Velocity supports a broad range of companies from a variety of disciplines, the new space will also be a magnet for health-technology companies — a space in which Velocity has seen tremendous growth in recent years. But with more space and more connection to expertise at Waterloo, Velocity will be better poised to help develop and grow companies across many sectors and markets.
“We continue to work with startups entering multiple industries, but are also deepening our resources to help founders and researchers turn technologies into products. What we do at Velocity is unique because we go beyond coworking space: Within one program, companies can access expert business advice and develop their products.”
A health-tech pipeline
This investment will create the capacity to feed a health-tech pipeline into an already robust entrepreneurial community, streamlining commercialization pathways innovators, opening doorways to global markets, and stimulating economic development across the region and country.
A 2019 study by Deloitte found that the Economic Impact of the University of Waterloo’s Entrepreneurship programs included over $80 million to Waterloo Region’s GDP in 2018/19, with over 100 Velocity alumni currently located in Kitchener.
The University and the City are also seeking investments from both the Federal and Provincial governments into the project.