The University of Waterloo is building out a pipeline for health innovation in Southwestern Ontario thanks to a $10-million investment from FedDev Ontario

Of the $10 million, $6.5 million is allocated to Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s flagship entrepreneurship program. The funding will allow Velocity to continue providing critical support for early-stage startups and further the exponential growth of the region’s tech ecosystem.

Velocity companies have raised more than $2.4 billion USD in funding so far and created more than 5,000 jobs, with over 100 companies deciding to settle in Southwestern Ontario. With increased funding, Velocity expects to deepen its ability to support health-tech and deep-tech companies and double the number of companies they can support every year.

The $10-million FedDev Ontario investment will support a new partnership between Velocity, Western University, the City of Kitchener and Medical Innovation Xchange (MIX) to build a Southwestern Ontario Health Innovation network. This partnership will strengthen the Canadian tech ecosystem, specifically in the health and medtech sector by supporting innovators and entrepreneurs from start to scale, providing companies with business, clinical and regulatory expertise, in addition to access to labs, facilities and equipment. Parts of the funding will be allocated to lab equipment for Waterloo’s Innovation Arena.

“Partnerships like these are the reason we’re able to foster significant growth in the areas of health research and technology across Southwestern Ontario,” says Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Waterloo. “Together, we are bridging opportunities between startup ecosystems and large scale-up companies, with one of the global economy’s most important sectors — health.”

The investment follows the City of Kitchener’s announcement of $8.5 million and another $1.5 million from local entrepreneur, angel investor and community leader Mike Stork towards the construction of the Innovation Arena on the University’s Health Sciences Campus, arriving in 2023. The 90,000-square-foot facility, located within Downtown Kitchener’s Innovation District, will co-locate startups and early scaling companies, create connections to local small/medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and will be home to Velocity.

Through this project, the University of Waterloo and its partners expect to create 730 skilled jobs, support the development and growth of 135 businesses and commercialize 150 new health-related products, services or processes. It will also help anchor a growing number of health-tech firms in southwestern Ontario, contributing to regional growth while attracting international startups to Waterloo.

“We are honoured to be trusted by the federal government to amplify Velocity’s support for founders starting, landing and growing game-changing companies in Southwestern Ontario,” says Adrien Côté, executive director of Velocity.

“This additional $6.5 million investment in Velocity establishes new partnerships and resources all focused on accelerating early-stage companies and supporting those that are growing. We are excited to get started with MIX and Western University, and look to meaningfully add to Waterloo Region’s already-energetic innovation ecosystem and expand support for founders launching health tech products into the market.”

The funding marks a significant milestone for Waterloo and Velocity alumni like Armen Bakirtzian (BASc ’08), co-founder and CEO of Intellijoint Surgical Inc. and founder of MIX.

“From the beginning, one of MIX’s key messages has been to pay it forward,” says Bakirtzian. “The partnership alongside Waterloo and Western, paired with this critical investment from FedDev Ontario, will allow us to continue serving this mission by offering a thriving ecosystem to large-scale startups to develop, sustain and retain local medical technology companies, and provide a collaborative environment that establishes Waterloo Region as a leader in medical innovation.”