Innovation is thriving around Ontario, with great companies emerging all over the province. This post was written jointly between Emily and the Innovation Factory team. It’s part of a monthly series featuring the up-and-coming companies of MaRS’ partners across Ontario.
Hamilton’s burgeoning innovation community is coming together to breathe vibrancy into the business and health sciences communities, and Innovation Factory (iF), the city’s Regional Innovation Centre, is driving the change.
iF serves as an expert resource for Hamilton’s entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to help accelerate the innovation process and amplify the economic and social impact of businesses and institutions in Hamilton.
iF has seen its community of innovators grow through its various programs, listed here.
In May 2012, iF launched its Factory Floor, a collaborative space based on a clubhouse model where iF clients can reserve “hot desks” daily, weekly or just occasionally. The Factory Floor currently has eight entrepreneurs and clients who use it as their primary workspace.
iF has recently launched the Innovation Destination, a place for community members to gather, work or grab a cup of coffee and to create the collisions that help move innovation along. The space has been designed as an engine of innovation, not only for iF, but also for the entire Hamilton community.
iF has tapped into the additional learning resources provided by MaRS and now hosts a live stream of the Entrepreneurship 101 webcast each week from the Innovation Destination. The demand for this service has grown rapidly in its first couple of months.
The LiFT Program
In 2012, with funding from the Industrial Research Assistance Program, iF launched LiFT, a program designed to help SMEs discover ways to foster innovation at all levels of their organization and to build sustainable growth. Through facilitated meetings, workshops, peer groups and seminars, LiFT helps SMEs set important short-term objectives that will connect with long-term goals for growth and innovation.
LiON’S LAIR is an annual gala event hosted collaboratively by iF and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. LiON’S LAIR showcases some of Hamilton’s brightest entrepreneurs and local businesses, and provides Hamiltonians with the opportunity to experience the thrill of startup investment as aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators face a panel of Hamilton’s top business executives and solicit up to $100,000 to get their companies off the ground.
There are many amazing companies and innovative ideas coming out of Hamilton.
REfficient is an online marketplace that enables customers to shop in other companies’ surplus inventories. Like eBay for used and surplus new industry products, REfficient allows businesses to buy telecom and audiovisual equipment at significant discounts, keeping reusable products out of landfills. REfficient also allows equipment to be resold and recycled, and companies will receive sustainability reporting for corporate responsibility reports. REfficient now has customers in nine countries and counts some of Canada’s largest telecom companies as clients. REfficient has helped divert more than one million pounds from landfill and, as of 2013, offsets the carbon emissions of all product shipments in order to maximize financial results while minimizing environmental impacts. REfficient was the second-place winner at LiON’S LAIR 2012 and is a Certified B Corp.
The Tidy Feeder was developed by the Dunlea family, who have been growing top-quality hay on their family farm in Hamilton for over 30 years. This family of innovative farmers took a look at the hay available for small pets and saw a chance to do something new. Hay is messy both to use as feed and to handle in general, a problem that every small pet owner is familiar with. Focusing on this issue led the Dunleas to create the Tidy Feeder, the world’s only hay package that converts into a feeder that can be hung in a cage. This patented invention provides a stimulating feeding experience for pets while helping reduce waste and mess. The Tidy Feeder was the winner of LiON’S LAIR 2012 and the Dunleas are currently working with an American distributer to further expand their business.
Founded in 2008, Vana Workforce is an integrated human resource solution provider for small and medium businesses (SMBs). The company’s Human Capital Management (HCM) software is built to provide SMBs with a complete hire-to-retire solution in the cloud. Built for today’s workforce, HCM is a social, mobile and global solution that ensures your workforce is always connected and collaborating. Vana Workforce has won several accolades including being named a 2010 “Cool Vendor” by Gartner Inc. and a 2012 “Top Up-and-Coming Technology Company” by PWC. In 2012, Vana Workforce received funding from the Investment Accelerator Fund along with some amazing companies from across Ontario.
As innovation and entrepreneurship continue to develop and thrive in Hamilton, iF will continue to lead the charge, developing new and exciting ways to help Hamilton and all of its institutions meet the challenges of the future.