Ontario engineer advances to BDC Young Entrepreneur Award finals
Ont.-based engineer-turned-businessman Matt Rendall is developing autonomous mobile robotics to handle materials-handling jobs
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Matt’s project will help the company he founded, Clearpath Robotics, develop a new series of autonomous mobile robots that will take on the sometimes-risky and tedious materials-handling jobs in warehouse operations. The project aims to increase warehouse safety, boost process throughput and increase ROI.
“Mechatronics” may sound like something out of a Transformers movie, but it was in fact the name of the robotics engineering program Matt attended at the University of Waterloo where he met his Clearpath co-founders. Their expertise in unmanned vehicle robotics enabled the team to launch a profitable company right out of university. After finding market traction in 40 countries, Matt is now ready to move into a new growth area: materials-handling in the industrial market.
“Robotics is really about intelligent automation that can help industrial companies and manufacturers improve productivity, by producing more and doing so in a more effective way that streamlines their operations,” Matt says. “For Canada, we really see this as a way for companies to position their brand by saying, ‘I manufacture in Canada,’ and to create more high-value jobs.”
Developing new robotics technologies for competitive industries that want to see a quick return on investment isn’t easy. It requires engaging with potential customers, and securing commitments from that first group of early adopters who will help de-risk the process. This is, of course, in addition to the development work that must take place on new hardware and software systems to meet industry requirements.
Matt and his team are tackling this one step at a time, by focusing first on the development of three new autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, to move materials in warehouses. What’s distinctive about Clearpath’s technology is that these robots are designed to safely operate around humans and unexpected obstacles to complete tasks without direction from by any kind of infrastructure. These AMRs are like driverless robot forklifts that can bring materials from one location to another all by themselves. Getting these prototypes to market will pave the way for the company to create a whole new industrial division and further expand into the manufacturing sector.
“Each of this year’s finalists has provided a compelling story about how their business stands at that crucial crossroads where the right mix of vision and action can secure future growth and success,” says Michel Bergeron, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs at BDC. “With his robotics business, Matt isn’t only pioneering a new competitive advantage for industrial companies through automation; he is also showcasing Canadian innovation on the global stage through a world-class technology company that has already created scores of highly skilled jobs.”
“We started in Ontario, but what we are trying to do will benefit all of Canada,” Matt says. “It’s important that we put Canada’s innovation economy in the global spotlight. Vote for us so we can expand this business, create thousands of jobs and support the growth of a thriving robotics industry in Canada.”
Voting for the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest runs from June 3 to June 17. To support your favourite project, log onto the contest microsite and vote once a day. The BDC Young Entrepreneur Award winner and runner-up will be announced on June 22. The runner-up will receive $25,000 in consulting services.