A young entrepreneur or a new start-up company seeking to break into the prolific life sciences sector in the Greater Toronto Area can find resources and mentorship through the University of Toronto’s network of world-class accelerator programs.
A critical gap exists in our life science entrepreneurship pipeline that the university is seeking to address – providing affordable wet lab space dedicated to early-stage founders.
That’s why the University of Toronto Mississauga, joined by the City of Mississauga, announced the launch of SpinUp — U of T’s first wet lab venture incubator with the objective of supporting early-stage life science companies and entrepreneurs. Vice-President and Principal Alexandra Gillespie made the announcement on June 6 at BIO 2023 in Boston, Mass., alongside Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Life Science Ontario President and CEO Jason Field and Vice-Principal Research Kent Moore.
“SpinUp will invite entrepreneurs into UTM’s New Science Building, which will open in 2023 as one of the most comprehensive and energy-efficient laboratory facilities in North America,” said Moore.
“At SpinUp, entrepreneurs can use this facility for a fraction of the cost of comparable spaces, gaining time and conserving capital to build their companies even before they have to seek major private investment.”
The wet lab space will offer affordable access to the specialized lab space, equipment and programming that emerging entrepreneurs need to mature their lab-based innovations. By addressing two major barriers — access to lab space and cost — U of T will offer a comprehensive set of resources for life science entrepreneurs and start-ups. It will also enrich UTM’s programs by creating new experiential learning opportunities and fostering research partnerships.
Most of the wet lab will be offered to ventures emerging from U of T’s accelerator programs; a subset of spots will be available to those off-campus from within the region. Start-ups are given the chance to grow their teams, scale their operations and mature their technologies, positioning themselves well to attract external investment and funding.
With any life sciences innovation or company, access to wet lab space and equipment is a critical step in maturing intellectual property and expanding a start-up. With SpinUp, U of T aims to keep new start-ups within the local ecosystem to avoid companies moving outside the region or even failing before having a chance to begin.
“The University of Toronto Mississauga drives life science innovation,” says Gillespie. “Leading researchers, students and partners come together here to launch start-ups that promote health, prosperity and vitality in our communities and around the world.”
U of T ranks No. 1 in Canada for research-based start-ups and is in the top five for university-managed incubators globally. This focus on developing entrepreneurship and innovation has launched more than 600 companies over the past 10 years, totalling more than 9,000 jobs. In recent years, U of T has been ranked second among North American universities for number of startups, after MIT. SpinUp serves as a key resource for ventures emerging from the university and elevates U of T’s global position.
For the city, province and all of Canada, this means more jobs, more home-grown companies, more investments in the Canadian economy and a STEM-trained workforce skilled in entrepreneurship and commercialization.
“SpinUp is a much-needed and welcomed addition to IDEA — Mississauga’s Innovation District — and we are thrilled that UTM’s new incubation space will be opening soon,” says Crombie.
“Our goal is to work with partners in the community, like UTM, to provide resources and facilities to support businesses from early stages of inception to scale-up, until they ultimately transition into their own space with a sustainable path forward. SpinUp will be a key element in this journey for smaller life sciences companies and advances our city’s position as a leader in this space. The future is bright for our life sciences sector in Mississauga!”
SpinUp will be part of the New Science Building, which is also the future home of the Centre for Medicinal Chemistry, UTM’s first-in-Canada program in forensic science and leading-edge research labs working to improve human health.