Few businesses survive with the mantra: “But we’ve always done it this way.”
In true entrepreneurial form, the Impact Centre—the University of Toronto’s oldest campus linked accelerator—has once again embraced the characteristics of disruptive thinking. After five years of their flagship Techno training program and the successful launch of 100 startups, Impact Centre has announced their most recent set of graduates will be their sixth and final cohort.
The intense summer Techno training program will be repositioning itself to offer a new and improved roster of services.
“We have had an incredible five years with Techno, but it’s time to re-imagine our offerings in order to fit the current market needs,” said Cynthia Goh, director of the Impact Centre. “This doesn’t mean our students will be left behind. We will still offer our Techno business à la carte services and our graduates have each set a plan with us and will continue to work towards successfully commercializing their business ideas.”
Making the unexpected ordinary
In 2010 when the Impact Centre initially launched Techno, an intensive four week program that teaches science and engineering students the components of creating a healthy and profitable business, it was a novel and unique venture.
Since then, entrepreneurial programs similar to Techno’s model have become increasingly popular across the country and beyond. In an effort to provide cutting edge programming that supports today’s innovative thinkers, the centre is in the process of identifying a new market opportunity and finding a better way to nurture our entrepreneurs.
“As scientists, we are always trying to make things better. Our experience with Techno over the past five years has helped further our understanding of how to support early-stage technology companies,” said Goh. “We now want to apply these insights into new sustainable programs that will further our mission to translate new fundamental scientific knowledge to help improve quality of life.”
Goh has a track record of spearheading programing that advances entrepreneurship in Canada. In addition to creating Techno, she was also recognized in 2014 as the winner of Startup Canada’s Entrepreneurial Effect Award for founding MaRS’ Entrepreneurship 101 program, identified as one of Toronto’s startup focal points.
Needless to say, the startup ecosystem anxiously awaits Impact Centre’s next move.
By integrating science into viable technologies, the Impact Centre teaches its students how to take their knowledge out of the university laboratory and into society. Notable businesses that have come out of Techno include:
- PathCore Inc.: Operating systems to help pathologists automate the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases (pictured right, photo by Jennifer Roberts).
- Kinetica: High-performance damping and isolation technologies to improve the safety and resilience of buildings, bridges and other infrastructure.
- Attodyne: Designs and manufactures state-of-the-art picosecond lasers for micro machining materials processing and research.
“Over the five years of Techno, we’ve worked with over 100 companies bringing science to benefit society,” said Richard McAloney, Impact Centre’s director of technology and entrepreneurship management. “Some of these companies have raised significant capital, made sales and been featured in national media. However, even for the companies that did not grow past the lab bench and initial pitch, the skills and network that they gained from the program will help them in future endeavours.”
The month-long intensive program cumulates in a pitch event showcasing their graduates’ refined product or service in a six minute presentation.
This year’s pitch event took place on July 10, featuring a record 24 teams presenting their diverse technologies, ranging from medical and assistive devices to wastewater pollution sensors and robotics (learn more about this year’s cohort).
Looking to the future
Over the last few years, the entrepreneurial landscape has altered dramatically. There are more resources and opportunities available than ever before dedicated to helping foster entrepreneurship across Canada. U of T alone has 9 different accelerators, coordinated by the Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (BBCIE). Each accelerator aims to support students and faculty across multiple disciplines and areas of interest. (For more information on entrepreneurship visit www.entrepreneurs.utoronto.ca)
Keeping the wealth of support available at U of T and the GTA in mind, the Impact Centre is currently working towards identifying a new program model that will stay true to Goh’s innovative style.
“The Impact Centre have been pioneers, leading boldly from the front ever since day one,” said Karen Sievewright, managing director of BBCIE. “Science and technology is such a fast-paced environment that, as an accelerator, if you don’t keep your finger on the pulse of what today’s startups need in terms of support, you’re going to get left behind. The Impact Centre understands this and I have no doubt their revamped program will address the unique challenges today’s top entrepreneurs face.”
While the chapter has been closed on the summer Techno program, this isn’t the end of the centre’s entrepreneurship support programs. Armed with a passionate staff and what seems to be a never ending supply of talented and motivated students, the Impact Centre’s new program will be one to watch.