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Taking your research from bench to bedside

Techno Showcase features U of T startups rooted in scientific entrepreneurship
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Mehrad Mashayekhi, founder and co-director of Illuster Technologies Inc promotes his startup. JASLEEN ARNEJA/THE VARSITY
Mehrad Mashayekhi, founder and co-director of Illuster Technologies Inc promotes his startup. JASLEEN ARNEJA/THE VARSITY

The Impact Centre at U of T hosted Techno Showcase at the MaRS Atrium on Wednesday, November 5.

The showcase featured a variety of startup companies incubated by Techno, an elite entrepreneurship-training program for scientists and engineers who want to transform their ideas and inventions into technology-based companies.

By undergoing a month-long intensive entrepreneurship training program in the summer, participants of Techno have the opportunity to take their ideas rooted in the engineering and physical sciences disciplines and commercialize them to add value to society and to solve issues surrounding healthcare, the environment, the economy, and more.  

Over the past five years the Impact Centre has helped companies to demonstrate their cutting-edge innovations in a hands-on setting. 

The showcase on Wednesday demonstrated the diversity of the companies that have emerged from Techno, including companies in the healthcare, environmental, and science education industries. 

Dr. Mayrose Salvador, the president of Pueblo Science, reflected upon her experience with the Techno program. 

“Techno basically opened a lot of doors for us,” said Salvador. “One of the co-founders, Cynthia Goh, started Techno so she is instrumental in having [Pueblo Science] out there, putting the word out there, connecting us to people who can help us. Techno basically offers another way for us scientists [sic]. [F]or we are always in the lab and… often get to wonder: is anybody ever going to use what I’m actually doing,” she added. 

Through the Techno program at the Impact Centre, a lot of students and scientists are able to bring their research straight to the market.  

Salvador also pointed out the flexibility of the program, which allowed her to take the not-for-profit route for her organization in order to maximize her contributions to society. 

Nari Kim, the vice-president of the startup SCIVENTIONS, which focuses on helping scientists to commercialize their research, also pointed out the benefits of the Techno program for her company. 

“I participated in the Techno program a few years ago, and I learned so much,” said Kim. “I have learned the importance of bringing technology outside of the research lab so that it can actually benefit society,” she emphasized. 

The Techno showcase also served as an opportunity for students taking the IMC200 Innovation and Entrepreneurship course to explore the variety of startups at U of T, demonstrating that commercialization is attainable. 

According to one such student, Leila Atri, “The amount of … new and upcoming businesses is really remarkable.”

Dr. Cynthia Goh agrees with the ubiquitous presence of entrepreneurship today. Goh is the current director of the Impact Centre, and visited the showcase on Wednesday. 

She believes that people’s attitudes towards entrepreneurs have turned for the better. “[Entrepreneurship] is a bit more accepted now,” said Goh, adding, “People might not have been more open about being entrepreneurs; now, everybody wants to be an entrepreneur.”   

“Hopefully we will end up generating a lot of great candidates [in the future] and therefore we will be able to be a lot more selective about the companies we choose to nurture,” said Goh, adding, “We will not really be making [the program] much bigger.” 

Other startups featured at the showcase include Sojourn Labs, which is commercializing a hybrid car-bicycle vehicle; Illuster Technoloiges Inc., which promotes its palm-sized circuit board to enhance electrical engineering education; and AllergenFree Solutions Inc., which is marketing a cleansing product that effectively inactivates peanut allergens.  

Correction (November 14, 2014): A previous version of this article stated that this was the fifth annual Techno Showcase.