National Post (Latest Edition)

Global Ventures Discover Support for Innovation in Markham

There’s an abundance of reasons why the diverse City of Markham has become the vibrant, rapidly-growing city that it is today.

- Michele Sponagle

Markham’s drive for innovation is in its DNA. Located in York Region at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area, Markham is a vibrant, rapidly-growing city, thanks to leading companies that have recognized its pool of world-class talent and entreprene­urial spirit.

At the centre of Canada’s second-largest technology cluster, Markham is home to more than 650 corporate head offices, over 1,500 high-tech and life science companies, and 240 internatio­nal companies. “Innovation is our central way of life in Markham, where residents hold the greatest number of patents per capita in Canada,” says Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “The city has a highly-educated and skilled workforce in the technology, life sciences, financial services, design and engineerin­g, science, and informatio­n and cultural sectors.”

Support for innovation draws leading companies

Among Canada’s top accelerato­rs, Markham’s regional tech hub venturelab has a mission to power local startups into becoming the next generation of globally-competitiv­e tech titans. In its 10-year history, it has enabled more than 2,000 ventures to raise in excess of $200 million in capital.

Working with companies in various industries, venturelab concentrat­es on hardware and enterprise software technology. Its signature initiative is

its Hardware Catalyst Initiative, Canada’s only lab and incubator for hardware and semiconduc­tor startups, including a $7 million state-of-the art lab to drive innovation­s from prototype to product. According to venturelab Chief Operating Officer Matt Skynner, the tech ecosystem in Markham is a true community

of collaborat­ion that’s led by a municipali­ty that strategica­lly supports innovation.

At Seneca Innovation, the applied research, innovation, and entreprene­urship branch of Seneca College, industry and community partners work alongside college faculty and students on applied research projects. It employs research managers to work with

companies to obtain grants and build research plans. According to Ben Rogers, Dean at Seneca Innovation, its applied research focuses on small- to medium-sized enterprise­s to solve technical challenges through the college’s expertise and infrastruc­ture.

Seneca also encourages innovation through its on-campus incubator HELIX, launched in 2014. HELIX helps entreprene­urs design and launch startups and foster innovation within employees. “Markham has

been a really strong supporter of HELIX from the very beginning,” says Chris Dudley, Director of Entreprene­urship at Seneca College. “It’s an extremely strong player in the ecosystem. By collaborat­ing and exchanging ideas, we all move farther faster.”

A dynamic setting for success

In fall 2023, York University’s $276-million Markham Centre Campus will focus on technology and entreprene­urship and offer new undergradu­ate and graduate academic programs geared to produce highly-qualified graduates.

“For many of us, it’s a lifetime opportunit­y to create an exemplary catalyst for learning, research, and innovation in the region,” says Amir Asif, Vice President of Research and Innovation at York University. “We aspire to make Markham the Silicon Valley of Canada.”

Yspace Markham, an accelerato­r innovation hub opened in January 2018, supports growth-ready technology initiative­s, as well as food and beverage startups seeking strategies to scale up operations. In just three years, more than 100 new ventures have been supported. According to Sarah Howe, Assistant Vice President of Innovation and Research Partnershi­ps at York University, “The opportunit­ies for collaborat­ion and demand for our entreprene­urial supports in Markham have blown us away.”

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