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Home » Industry & Business » Global Ventures Discover Strong Support for Innovation in Markham

There’s an abundance of reasons why the diverse City of Markham has become the vibrant, rapidly-growing city that it is today.

Markham’s drive for innovation is in its DNA. Located in York Region at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area, Markham is a vibrant, rapidly-growing city, thanks to leading companies that have recognized its pool of world-class talent and entrepreneurial spirit.

At the centre of Canada’s second-largest technology cluster, Markham is home to more than 650 corporate head offices, over 1,500 high-tech and life science companies, and 240 international companies. Canada’s most diverse city is blessed with ample urban amenities, low tax rates, and exceptional quality of life.

Global innovators in Markham include IBM, Aviva Insurance, AMD, GM Canada Technical Centre, Bank of China, GE Grid IQ Innovation Centre, Honeywell, Huawei Technologies, Lenovo, Johnson & Johnson, Toshiba, Honda, Qualcomm and Hyundai.  Markham is also home to IBM’s Canadian software lab—the largest software development lab in the country.

“Innovation is our central way of life in Markham, where residents hold the greatest number of patents per capita in Canada,” says Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “The city has a highly-educated and skilled workforce in the technology, life sciences, financial services, design and engineering, science, and information and cultural sectors.”

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ventureLAB empowers ingenuity

As one of Canada’s top accelerators, Markham’s regional tech hub ventureLAB has a mission to power local startups into becoming the next generation of globally-competitive tech titans. In its 10-year history, it has enabled more than 2,000 ventures to raise in excess of $200 million in venture capital. According to ventureLAB Chief Operating Officer Matt Skynner, the tech ecosystem in Markham is a true community of collaboration that’s led by a municipality that strategically supports innovation.

Working with companies across the spectrum, ventureLAB concentrates on hardware and enterprise software technology. Its signature initiative is its Hardware Catalyst Initiative (HCI), Canada’s only lab and incubator for hardware and semiconductor startups, including a $7 million state-of-the-art lab to drive innovation from prototype to product.

Another key ventureLAB initiative is Tech Undivided, which helps women-led companies to refine product-market fit, amplify sales, and navigate relevant sources of funding, and its Capital Investment Program that streamlines the connection between investors and investment-ready ventures.

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ventureLAB’s Innovation Space located in IBM Headquarters in Markham

Setting the stage for success at Seneca Innovation and HELIX

Seneca Innovation is a hub for industry and community partners wishing to engage in collaborative applied research projects with college faculty and students. The full-service applied research operation includes research managers who work with companies to obtain grants, strategize and build research plans. According to Ben Rogers, Dean at Seneca Innovation, its applied research focuses on small- to medium-sized enterprises to solve technical challenges through the college’s expertise and infrastructure.

Seneca also encourages innovation through its on-campus incubator HELIX, launched in 2014 to help entrepreneurs design and launch a startup, and foster innovation within employees. HELIX has helped to accelerate 560 new ventures from cosmetics to virtual reality. Its signature, program, Career Recharge, offers a series of free upskilling sessions designed to help mid-career professionals re-enter the workforce, advance in their field, change careers, or start new ventures.

“The City of Markham has been a really strong supporter of HELIX from the very beginning,” says Chris Dudley, Director of Entrepreneurship at Seneca College. “They are extremely strong players in the ecosystem. By collaborating and exchanging ideas, we all move farther faster.”

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York University’s next-generation campus coming soon

The $276-million York University Markham Centre Campus, slated to open in fall 2023, will focus on technology and entrepreneurship. It will offer new undergraduate and graduate academic programs geared to produce highly qualified graduates and research leaders committed to solving society’s complex challenges.

“For many of us, it is a lifetime opportunity to create an exemplary catalyst for learning, research and innovation in the region,” explains Amir Asif, Vice-President, Research and Innovation at York University. “We aspire to make Markham the Silicon Valley of Canada.”

YSpace Markham, a 10,000-square-foot accelerator innovation hub, opened to entrepreneurs in January 2018, supports growth-ready technology ventures, as well as and food and beverage start-ups. In just three years, it has supported the development of more than 100 new ventures. “The opportunities for collaborations and demand for our entrepreneurial supports in Markham have blown us away,” says Sarah Howe, Assistant Vice President of Innovation and Research Partnerships at York University.

YSpace’s Food and Beverage Accelerator – unique in Ontario – helps high-growth consumer packaged goods ventures scale up operations and acquire new distribution channels. “Making a direct contribution to the local economy through innovation and entrepreneurship, are key priorities for York in Markham,” Howe adds. “The new campus is only going to take that to a whole new level.”

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