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Spark Centre: Igniting the startup scene in Durham Region

January 8, 2013

This guest blog is part of a monthly series featuring MaRS’ partners across Ontario and their up-and-coming companies.

The startup scene is heating up across Durham Region, thanks in large part to Spark Centre. The centre celebrated its launch in June 2012 at a Big Bang event that established it as the newest of 14 Regional Innovation Centres in Ontario. Serving entrepreneurs across Durham Region and Northumberland County, Spark Centre provides guidance, support and resources to local innovators. With a whopping 176 clients on its roster so far, it is clear that local entrepreneurs are raring to go.

As an example of the kind of talent that Spark hopes to inspire, please read about two Spark clients in the health innovation space that have had a particularly exciting developments this fall.

5 Minds Mobility Inc.

5 Minds Mobility Inc. is an Oshawa, Ontario-based medical equipment company that develops and produces mattresses and wheelchair cushions that help reduce a specific aspect of shear in order to prevent skin breakdown in patients who are immobile. 5 Minds Mobility’s Shear Reduction Technology (SRT) was voted the most innovative product by occupational therapists and physiotherapists at Shoppers Home Health conferences in both Toronto and Calgary. To prove the sound clinical basis for its product, 5 Minds Mobility worked with Durham College to test the SRT. In late 2011, the company conducted a six-week clinical trial at The Wynfield Long Term Care Residence in Oshawa. Shoppers Home Health will be distributing the product.

Kela Medical Inc.

Kela Medical Inc. is based in Whitby, Ont., and has created a fully accessible personal health record. It is a wallet-sized card that allows Ontarians to carry their complete medical files with them at all times, and can be connected to any computer without requiring specific software.

Kela recently received $50,000 in funding from the Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation. The money will be used to expand the company’s sales force and to develop a presence in a market underdeveloped by competitors. In early 2011, the Ontario Centres of Excellence supported a collaborative project with Kela and the University of Toronto through the Technical Problem Solving program. Since then the company has received offers in excess of $500,000 in follow-on investment.

One particularly exciting Spark Centre initiative is a new opportunity called Ignite.

It is the first startup boot camp of its kind in the area, and includes coaching, training and an exciting public Pitch Night. It has already become a magnet for broad community support of innovation and entrepreneurship, bringing together government, academia, professional service providers and successful CEOs who want to show local entrepreneurs there is meaningful support close to home.

Applications for Ignite are due January 11, 2013. By March, two companies will be granted admission into a rigorous four-month-long boot camp. They’ll receive seed funding, plus mentorship from an impressive Power Panel that includes Bruce Croxon and Howard Gwin, plus Durham-based mentors Wayne Conrad from Omachron Technologies Inc.; Jason Atkins from 360 Incentives; and Jeff Quipp from Search Engine People.

In June, a final event will bring everyone together to celebrate the emerging entrepreneurial community in Durham Region and set the stage for more action.

The Durham Region community is coming together for Ignite! Photo by Jason Chow Photography.

Ignite aims to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit in Durham Region and to showcase the available resources to help companies like these succeed. Be sure to visit the Ignite website to apply before January 11, 2013, and follow our progress on Twitter via @spark_centre and on Facebook.

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Erin Elliott

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Erin Elliott is a freelance writer in Durham Region and a member of Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation. She is currently the publisher and editor of OshaWhat.ca. She was previously the assistant director of communications at Evergreen Brick Works and an editor at Alternatives Journal. She regularly contributes to Shameless Magazine and has an M.A. in literature and performance.

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