In 2018, U of T ranked among the top five universities in the world for launching a business. Incubators and accelerators facilitate the launch of most businesses; an incubator launches an idea into a startup, while an accelerator helps an existing business grow and develop. If you want to launch your own business, here’s a guide to U of T’s 11 incubators and accelerators.
The University of Toronto Early Stage Technology Program (UTEST) is a year-long program that focuses on high-potential technology developed at U of T. UTEST partners with Mitacs, MaRS, and Ontario Centres of Excellence, among others, to provide services to early-stage ventures. UTEST assists students, faculty, and recent alumni with developing business plans, and provides legal advice and office space to launch their business. UTEST applications are due in May each year and final decisions are made in June. It will invest $100,000 in selected businesses, with access to an additional $500,000 in capital. Twelve companies participated in UTEST’s 2018 cohort for innovations, ranging from surgical adhesives to wound treatments.
The University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Hub hosts a startup competition to help students and recent alumni launch their ideas into businesses. The Hub’s fifth annual intake will be held on Saturday, November 16 when entrepreneurs will compete for up to $5,000 in seed capital. The Hub has launched over 130 startups since its inception five years ago. To name a few, the Hub has helped launch CheaprEats, an on-campus food ordering app that rewards users; Weav, a ride-sharing app designed for students to carpool with one another, and BlumeX, a venture dedicated to helping startups hit sales targets.
ICUBE is an incubator based in the Institute for Management & Innovation at UTM, but isn’t restricted to UTM students. ICUBE has a three-stage system: Startup, Scaleup, and SXL Grant. Startup includes extensive support for refining a business plan. Scaleup is for companies that have made less than $100,000, and includes networking opportunities and smaller cash prizes. SXL Grant comes with a 50 per cent labour coverage for one employee when the company hires a UTM student. Notable ICUBE alumni include Just Vertical, a company that promotes food sustainability, and Micharity, an innovative fundraising platform.
Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab (DCSIL) is a startup incubator and accelerator for innovations rooted in computer science. In addition to helping launch businesses through their Research to Commercialization Program, the DCSIL offers courses in software and product development to undergraduate and graduate students. It works with U of T, government organizations, industry partners, venture capital firms, and other incubators and accelerators to commercialize promising innovations. In the past, the DCSIL has helped launch Brainsview, a software company that can monitor brain injuries in real time, and deepPIXEL, a company working to improve and automate online customer support.
The Entrepreneurship Hatchery is a place where student entrepreneurs can submit any problem online to the Hatchery Idea Market, and their team will help them find a solution. The Hatchery operates through two streams: NEST is designed for students interested in launching or growing a startup, while the Launch Lab facilitates startups born out of graduate-level research. Previously, the Hatchery has helped launch Vercel, a company that created a subzero preservation system that extends the life of organs for transplant, and Medme, a smart pillbox that helps patients manage their medications. Each year, the Hatchery hosts Demo Day, an event that showcases startups that participated in NEST’s rigorous four-month program.
Start@UTIAS is part of the U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) and collaborates with the Hatchery to help students in UTIAS develop their business ideas. Start@UTIAS applicants can apply to the Hatchery’s Launch Lab, NEST, and social program streams and are eligible for up to $60,000 in funding. One of the successful past winners is Medchart, a cloud-based portal that gives patients access to their medical records. TeaBOT, a startup which sells robots that can custom-blend teas in under 30 seconds, participated in the Start@UTIAS program in 2015.
The BRIDGE is an accelerator built on a partnership between the Department of Management at UTSC and the UTSC library that emphasizes experiential learning. The BRIDGE is best known for its New Venture Program, which allows students from a range of disciplines to gain business planning and management skills through industry and community placements. Program placement is contingent upon submission of a letter of intent, the completion of required coursework, and an interview. The BRIDGE also functions as a working space and a resource for business and financial services. Most recently, the BRIDGE collaborated with DCSIL and IBM Watson to launch a chatbot for Canadian financial services and information.
The Impact Centre is an accelerator that aims to bring scientific discoveries to the market. The Impact Centre provides opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to learn about entrepreneurship through Techno, a week-long course on entrepreneurship, and also provides opportunities for eligible undergraduate students to work in startups for course credit. Some of the Impact Centre’s alumni include RealAtoms, a reinvented molecular modelling kit for students; Somnitude, a company developing artificial-light blocking glasses; and Pueblo Science, a non-profit organization focused on science literacy.
Health Innovation Hub (H2i) is an incubator that supports innovations, advances, and research in health care. H2i promotes external affiliate events such as ECHO, an entrepreneurship in cardiovascular health startup competition during which five ideas are judged and awarded from a $250,000 pool. In addition, H2i hosts the Pitch Perfect health matters competition, which awards $5,000 each to three fellowship winners. In the past, H2i has helped launch Scipertise, an online platform for scientists to share tips and tricks for scientific methods and troubleshooting equipment. H2i has also helped early-stage pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies like Porphysome Foundry and Phoenox Pharma get off the ground.
The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is a seed-stage incubator for companies developing innovations in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, clean technology, space, and more. As part of the Rotman School of Management, CDL provides companies with mentors in business and scientific development. CDL has one round of application intake per year, which took place in August. Since its creation in 2012, CDL has launched over 500 companies and has generated $3 billion in equity. One of the more well-known companies launched through CDL, Kepler Communications, works to build internet connectivity and improve real-time communication through satellites.
The Innovation Hub (iHub) is a student-led initiative that has adopted an empathetic approach to design in order to drive social change at U of T. Launched in 2016, iHub selects a number of projects to work on each year through student, staff, and faculty input. For example, iHub is now working to make Convocation Hall more accessible, and working with the Family Care Office to better accommodate students with families. In the past, this grassroots initiative has helped St. Michael’s College become more equipped to welcome international students and worked with Indigenous Student Services to better curate services for its students. iHub encourages students to submit their own ideas or join existing teams to work on projects.