MARKHAM, Ont. — ventureLAB, a technology hub located in Toronto’s York Region, has announced the first cohort of companies in its Hardware Catalyst Initiative (HCI) and $8 million in resources and mentorship from founding partners, including tech firms AMD and Synopsys.
First announced in June 2019, with $5 million in funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), HCI is Canada’s first silicon incubator. ventureLAB says HCI is allowing breakthrough companies from southern Ontario to develop hardware solutions, including healthcare technology, consumer electronics, telecommunications, smart energy and connected transportation.
HCI features a 1,500 square foot lab with specialized equipment and electronic design automation toolsets, critical for manufacturing semiconductor, silicon and advanced hardware-based solutions.
According to ventureLAB, the hardware equipment can cost millions of dollars per product, making it difficult for startups to commercialize products, and as such, HCI was born out of the need to access expensive tools, lab space, investment and industry expertise.
“The Hardware Catalyst Initiative is our solution for emerging tech companies to become competitors in the global hardware economy, which generates $7 trillion in economic activity,” said Melissa Chee, president and CEO, ventureLAB, in a prepared statement. “Without this opportunity, it’s extremely difficult for hardware and silicon startups to afford the barriers to entry. York Region’s unmatched tech expertise will ensure that HCI participants have every opportunity to hone their skills, scale their operations and commercialize their products globally.”
To select the inaugural HCI cohort — which kicks off in February 2020 — ventureLAB issued a call for southern Ontario companies leveraging hardware and silicon technologies. The eight companies selected are:
Bionic-i: A hardware biotechnology company focused on augmenting vision and combating blindness with a surgically implantable device that can treat and monitor an “orphan” genetic disease, as well as rejuvenate cataract surgical patients by eliminating their need for reading glasses.
BluMind.AI: Analog machine learning inferencing; engines for network edge devices.
Cyberworks Robotics: AI-based technology for autonomous self-driving wheelchairs.
Ekidna Sensing: Will provide a rapid and critical testing solution for licensed producers in the global cannabis industry.
Humantec Inc. | Menopod: Manufactures the Menopod, a handheld electronic cooling device for women suffering from hot flashes during menopause.
Micromensio: A semiconductor company developing a biosensing technology to provide solutions for healthcare, the environment and industry.
TARTAN AI: A hardware company optimizing machine learning to offer processing elements and transparent memory compression technologies; the result is a reduction in the computation, storage and communication needed when executing machine learning models on silicon.
Wind Shape Technology Inc.: Designs and manufactures proximity sensors for electronic faucets.
“We’ve got workers’ and Canadian businesses’ backs. With FedDev Ontario funding towards the Hardware Catalyst Initiative, promising tech companies will have direct access to the equipment, expertise and support needed to grow and scale locally, and compete globally,” said Mélanie Joly, federal minister of Economic Development and Official Languages. “Congratulations to ventureLAB, partners and the innovative companies that will benefit from this new state-of-the-art lab and incubator.”