Waterloo steps into the Innovation Arena
This article was originally featured on Waterloo Stories.
A University of Waterloo partnership with the City of Kitchener to further develop the Health Sciences Campus in downtown Kitchener’s Innovation District is moving ahead.
The University-owned, 90,000-square-foot warehouse at the corner of Victoria and Joseph St. will transform into a connected health- and technology-commercialization community within Downtown Kitchener’s Innovation District. It will co-locate startups, early scaling companies and broader connections to local SMEs. The development was approved by Kitchener city council on Monday.
The “Innovation Arena” will feature shared product development labs, manufacturing and collaborative office spaces, and will also serve as a health-innovation nexus with increased partnerships and community connections. It will also be the new home of Velocity, University of Waterloo’s flagship entrepreneurship program and the only business incubator in North America that provides a full spectrum of product-development space.
“This opportunity to develop our Health Sciences Campus represents a significant milestone not just for the University of Waterloo and Velocity, but for the city and region,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “Together, we are expanding our contribution to one of the global economy’s most important sectors. And together, our citizens stand to benefit as well from the emerging health innovation.”
Hamdullahpur thanked the City of Kitchener for its investment of up to $8.5 million, and for once again supporting local entrepreneurship while bolstering the leadership of the university and city in the sphere of health innovation. About 5,000 square feet of the new space will be devoted to the city health-innovation programming and collaboration through the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre.
A new era
“This partnership marks the beginning of Velocity’s next era,” said Adrien Côté, Executive Director of Velocity. “For years, we have supported many remarkable startups and launched some of Canada’s most successful technology companies into a wide array of sectors from software platforms, electronics to biotechnology. With this purpose-built facility, we will have the opportunity to help more startups evolve into scaling companies, commercialize advanced technologies and grow in our community.”
Cote said that while Velocity supports a broad range of companies from a variety of disciplines, the new space will also be a magnet for health-technology companies — a space in which Velocity has seen tremendous growth in recent years. But with more space and more connection to expertise at Waterloo, Velocity will be better poised to help develop and grow companies across many sectors and markets.
“We continue to work with startups entering multiple industries, but are also deepening our resources to help founders and researchers turn technologies into products. What we do at Velocity is unique because we go beyond coworking space: Within one program, companies can access expert business advice and develop their products.”
A health-tech pipeline
This investment will create the capacity to feed a health-tech pipeline into an already robust entrepreneurial community, streamlining commercialization pathways innovators, opening doorways to global markets, and stimulating economic development across the region and country.
A 2019 study by Deloitte found that the Economic Impact of the University of Waterloo’s Entrepreneurship programs included over $80 million to Waterloo Region’s GDP in 2018/19, with over 100 Velocity alumni currently located in Kitchener.
The University and the City are also seeking investments from both the Federal and Provincial governments into the project.
Go out of your skull with a Waterloo professor's book on boredom
A message from Print + Retail Solutions.
James Danckert, psychology professor and Cognitive Neuroscience Research Area Head, will be discussing his latest book, Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom, during a virtual book launch event hosted by the Kitchener Public Library on December 1.
In Out of My Skull, Danckert and his co-author, John Eastwood, contend that boredom isn't bad for us. It's just that we do a bad job of heeding its guidance. When we're bored, our minds are telling us that whatever we are doing isn't working – we're failing to satisfy our basic psychological need to be engaged and effective. Too many of us respond poorly. We become prone to accidents, risky activities, loneliness, and ennui, and we waste ever more time on technological distractions. But, Danckert and Eastwood argue, we can let boredom have the opposite effect, motivating the change we need. The latest research suggests that an adaptive approach to boredom will help us avoid its troubling effects and, through its reminder to become aware and involved, might lead us to live fuller lives.
Out of My Skull combines scientific findings with everyday observations to explain an experience we'd like to ignore, but from which we have a lot to learn. Boredom evolved to help us. It's time we gave it a chance.
Pick up your copy of Out of My Skull, available now at W Store: https://wstore.uwaterloo.ca/danckert-out-of-my-skull.html
For more information about the virtual book launch and to register for the event, visit the Kitchener Public Library’s website.
Innovation, entrepreneurship and internationalizing great ideas
This article was originally featured on Waterloo Stories.
While developing technical skills is important during a co-op work term, a Japanese software company, founded by University of Waterloo graduates, is looking to give their co-op students a different type of learning experience.
Through extra vacation days, visa arrangements and reimbursed flights, Waterloo co-op students are given every opportunity to immerse themselves in Japanese culture during their time at Curvegrid Inc.
Curvegrid, established in Tokyo in 2017, looks to empower its student’s integration in the Japanese tech community.
“We want to give them some exposure to Japan, Japanese business culture, as well as time outside of work to really explore the country,” says Jeff Wentworth, co-founder of Curvegrid. “That’s a set of skills and experiences that we hope will take them through the rest of their co-op terms.”
As a result of providing exemplary international co-op experiences, Curvegrid is the first-ever winner of the Impact in International Excellence award as part of Waterloo Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) Employer Impact Awards.
“Curvegrid is exemplar of what UWaterloo stands for: innovation, entrepreneurship, and internationalizing great ideas,” says Bessma Momani, interim assistant vice-president for International Relations. “By employing our great co-op students, they are empowering the next generation of UWaterloo graduates to have the same determination and grit to pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams.”
The company, founded by Waterloo alumni Wentworth and William Metcalfe, produces a product called Multi-Baas. This blockchain middleware makes it fast, easy and cost-effective to build on multiple blockchain platforms. They hope to revolutionize the way we think about money, information and relationships.
“One of the things that has been successful for us as a Japanese company is mixing the best of Japanese business culture and international and Western business culture,” says Wentworth.
The soft skills
Curvegrid promotes the development of soft skills like flexibility, resilience, initiative, humour, humility and genuine interest in living and working in Japan. They also provide support for co-op students by reimbursing daily transit, covering accommodation costs, helping open bank accounts, sharing how to buy groceries and SIM cards and encouraging extracurricular activities.
“We give (the students) six or 13 vacation days depending on whether they’re with us for four or eight months, and that’s about making sure they’ve got the time to explore Japan or maybe even other parts of Asia,” Wentworth says. “We've had some students that have certainly seen Japan but also traveled to Thailand,Taiwan or Korea while they've been here in Japan. We've had some of them use that time to have their friends or family come over and tour around with them as well.”
Meanwhile, the organization empowers co-op student integration with the Japanese tech community by sponsoring or participating in external events like the Decrypt Tokyo Hackathon, the AWS summit and a bon-odori outdoor festival.
An overseas work term provided Ishan Chho a chance to work in a place where he grew up while gaining valuable professional experience for the future.
Chho, a Computer Science student at Waterloo, spent 14 years of his life in Japan, and wanted a chance to go back to not only experience working for a startup company like Curvegrid, but also to experience the lifestyle and culture once again.
“You learn a lot at a work, and you get to have this awesome experience outside of work,” says Chho.
Nyugen Pham, fellow Computer Science student at Waterloo, was particularly happy about being able to learn a lot in a smaller start-up setting.
“It’s so cool to be part of such a lively start-up,” says Pham.
Curvegrid and Waterloo
Curvegrid believes that Waterloo co-op students play an integral role in its organization’s ability to stay globally connected because they bring a diversity of perspectives from their personal, academic, and past work experiences.
“They're bringing experience from their past co-op work terms, and so they're able to blend their academic experience with practical experience from different work environments,” Wentworth says. “We’re really learning from the best.”
The organization has been hiring Waterloo co-op students since 2018 from math, computer science and engineering. Their co-op students are both Canadian as well as international students attending Waterloo. A 2019 Waterloo graduate has also signed on at the organization in a full-time role.
“The work environment at Curvegrid is super unique because I think one obvious thing that sets it apart is that they’re in Tokyo, but most of the team, being a startup, most of them are not from Japan,” says Chho. “Because of that, every member on the team has a unique background, especially with the frame of the company in Japan. It’s a very non-traditional company, both from a North American and Japanese perspective.”
Check out the full article on Waterloo Stories for an interview with founder Jeff Wentworth.
"Over the past two weeks, Ethiopia has been affected by conflict between the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and the country’s federal government led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed," says a note from the Balsillie School for International Affairs (BSIA). "Prospects for peace still appear to be unclear."
The BSIA is hosting Ambassador Nasise Jira, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Canada, who will discuss the recent developments in Ethiopia on Friday, November 27 at 10:30 a.m. Register for the talk online.
St. Paul's University College will be holding a virtual installation ceremony for its third Chancellor, Michaëlle Jean, on Friday, December 4 at 11:30 a.m. This free online event will be streamed live on the St. Paul's website and on its Facebook page. You can register for the ceremony online.