Government of Canada invests in ventureLAB expansion to help strengthen Canada’s hardware and semiconductor sector
March 5, 2021 — Markham, Ontario
The Government of Canada is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and businesses across the country through the pandemic, and investing in their success on the road to recovery to generate growth, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. Investments in the technologies industries are helping to boost innovation, accelerate the commercialization of new technologies, grow and scale operations, and foster technological advancement.
Today, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion and Member of Parliament for Markham–Thornhill, announced an additional FedDev Ontario investment of $4.7 million for Markham’s own ventureLAB to enhance its Hardware Catalyst Initiative Lab with virtual access and greater testing capabilities. The announcement was made on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario.
The Hardware Catalyst Initiative is Canada’s first state-of-the-art incubator in the hardware and semiconductor space, funded through an initial $5-million non-repayable investment in 2019. Semiconductors are a critical component at the core of many emerging industries and innovations, ranging from electric vehicles, to robotics in precision agriculture, to 5G communications and mobile devices.
This additional investment will allow ventureLAB to purchase advanced computing infrastructure for the lab to virtualize equipment, which has become essential in the COVID-19 context. This will enable entrepreneurs from across Canada, including in rural regions, to utilize the platform remotely, expanding the reach of the Hardware Catalyst Initiative beyond the Greater Toronto Area. In addition, the Hardware Catalyst Initiative will purchase cutting-edge equipment (with a focus on 5G technologies, autonomous vehicles, and AI development) not currently available in Canada, enabling Canadians to stay globally competitive. Building more end-to-end capabilities to commercialize new hardware and semiconductor products domestically will encourage growing Canadian companies in this sector to keep operations in Canada.
The lab expansion will help to address the increasing demand for this specialized technology, which includes providing a Canadian-made solution to help meet global demand for microchips used by automotive and consumer electronics manufacturers. It will accelerate the growth of an additional 17 domestic hardware and semiconductor companies, support the commercialization of eight new products, and generate $7 million in new product sales, bringing the total number of companies supported through the FedDev Ontario investment in the Hardware Catalyst Initiative to 60. This investment will also leverage an additional $1.35 million in private investment and will create 35 skilled jobs.
Also as part of today’s event, the launch of the second cohort of Hardware Catalyst Initiative companies was announced, which includes eight businesses that will receive mentorship from global tech leaders and have access to a state-of-the-art hardware lab with specialized equipment. The program will provide these companies with training and mentoring services, and connect them with industry experts to accelerate the commercialization of their technologies at home and compete around the world.
Along with today’s announcement, Minister Ng moderated a fireside chat, interviewing the CEOs of three Hardware Catalyst Initiative cohort participants and heard about the impact of the Hardware Catalyst Initiative program on their businesses.
“By virtualizing the Hardware Catalyst Initiative Lab, Canadian businesses across Canada will be able to fully access the program, encouraging widespread growth in the hardware industry. Our government’s investment is good news for Canadian businesses scaling up in the hardware and semiconductor sector, good news for Ontario with the addition of 35 new skilled jobs, and good news in our pursuit of a sustainable and digital economic recovery.”
- The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion and Member of Parliament for Markham–Thornhill
“The Hardware Catalyst Initiative Lab expansion will allow Canadian entrepreneurs to stay globally competitive here in Canada by increasing the capabilities for companies to connect with global leaders virtually and to test new technologies. Today’s announcement represents the kind of investment that will strengthen our manufacturers now by giving them the support they need to grow and stay resilient for the future—all while creating good, local jobs.”
- The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
“Today’s investment from FedDev Ontario shows commitment to the tech sector and to building a resilient Canadian supply chain that strengthens Canada’s position as a global innovation leader. A thriving, end-to-end hardware ecosystem means new investment opportunities, five times the number of tech sector jobs, and a major advantage in terms of talent retention.”
- Melissa Chee, President and Chief Executive Officer, ventureLAB
"Today's announcement by FedDev Ontario is a testament to the deep tech expertise and talent we have here in Markham, York Region, and across Canada. The expansion of ventureLAB's Hardware Catalyst Initiative signifies the importance the hardware and semiconductor industry plays in our local economy and global competitiveness."
- His Worship Frank Scarpitti, Mayor, City of Markham
ventureLAB is a leading technology hub located in York Region, Canada’s second-largest tech cluster. ventureLAB’s 50,000-square-foot innovation hub is home to the Hardware Catalyst Initiative’s 2,200-square-foot prototype and testing lab. It has enabled more than 2,000 tech entrepreneurs to scale through programs focused on raising capital, retaining talent, commercializing technology and IP, and customer acquisition, to advance Canada’s economy on a local, national and global scale.
With a focus on hardware technology and enterprise software companies, ventureLAB's portfolio of companies created over 4,000 jobs that have raised over $120 million in investment capital to grow and scale.
Since its launch in 2019, the Hardware Catalyst Initiative Lab has helped establish southern Ontario as a recognized ecosystem for the hardware and semiconductor industry.
Among the first cohort of Hardware Catalyst Initiative was Bionic-I, which received support to develop and scale its bio-electronic implantable visual device. With product development support and expert advisory, Bionic-I quickly shifted its focus to develop a powerful sterilization robot called LightShield™. This innovation continually sterilizes viral particles and allows workers to maintain safety in shared spaces. ventureLAB further supported the commercialization of Lightshield™ by building connections with strategic partners and potential customers.
Since 2019, ventureLAB has received non-repayable contributions of more than $2 million from FedDev Ontario through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund to deliver the Tech Undivided program, which to date provides services to 18 women-led technology companies that specifically build software or hardware-enabled solutions for various economic sectors.
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