University of Ottawa’s MakerLaunch propels startups to new heights

Faculty of Engineering ‘expands funnel for entrepreneurship’
uOttawa Faculty of Engineering


Developing and launching a product that fills a need in the market is a challenging task on its own, now scaling a startup and making it sustainable for the long run is another challenge altogether. The new MakerLaunch program, a startup growth program for makers, aims to help startups scale up and access global market. 

Over the past years, uOttawa Faculty of Engineering, with its Centre of Entrepreneurship and Engineering Design (CEED), has established a strong design culture and entrepreneurial ecosystem; from their first years, students are required to help solve issues presented to them by clients from the community by using design and entrepreneurial principles.
 

“Ottawa used to be a hardware city and we still have the capabilities to develop good hardware.”

Students wishing to develop their ideas can tap into the faculty’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, which will assist them every step of the way. uOttawa Engineering students can work on their ideation to validation stages through the various entrepreneurial competitions, support networks and fast prototyping design spaces available in the new STEM Complex. They can also build their startups through the Launching Entrepreneurs competition and Startup Garage, and now to assist them with the next step of scaling, they now have access to the MakerLaunch program.

“We want to expand our funnel for entrepreneurship,” says Hanan Anis, a professor at the Faculty of Engineering and an NSERC Chair in Entrepreneurial Engineering Design. “Ottawa used to be a hardware city and we still have the capabilities to develop good hardware. We want to provide support for people developing deep technology. Plus, there’s an added bonus when we imagine the possibilities of combining the hardware and software expertise in this city. The next generation of startups are so lucky to have that wealth of knowledge available to them!”

This new program, dubbed MakerLaunch, is a complete nine-month program starting in April 2019 that surrounds startups with coaches and special advisors, all industry experts, some funding along with workspace and access to the facilities of the new uOttawa STEM Complex.
The program is a perfect complement to the new innovative complex, which features six different design and prototyping facilities including:

  • the Simon Nehme Design Commons for ideation
  • the MakerLab and Manufacturing Training Centre for training
  • and prototyping spaces such as the Richard L’Abbé Makespace with its 3D printers, laser cutters, virtual reality equipment, as well as the Brunsfield Centre equipped with mills, lathes, bandsaws, drill presses and even welding and fabrication tools.

Along with the extensive support provided by the program, participants of the MakerLaunch will have the opportunity to access up to $50,000 in seed funding upon reaching preset milestones. 

"The program is not a typical one-model-fits-all, but rather a customizable approach to create a growth environment to propel startups.”

Financing

“We’re looking for students or recent alumni that might have their first contract and they’re looking to scale their business,” says Kyle Bournes, the alumni relations officer at the university’s Faculty of Engineering who has worked extensively with alumni and tech leaders to design, build and rally support for this program. “We are super excited to see so much enthusiasm from uOttawa alumni for this program. Many want to get involved and are very eager to see MakerLaunch startups succeed.”

While software development can happen in a relatively short time, product testing can be time consuming and costly.

“It takes much longer to launch hardware products than software,” says Prof. Anis. “Those startups need more time to get to the marketplace. We want to bridge the gap and help them get ready for investors.”

The University of Ottawa is seeing demand grow for its entrepreneurial programs. Anis’ course on tech entrepreneurship began with eight students in 2012 and has quickly scaled to more than 250 students.

“This new program is built on a strong entrepreneurial foundation and ecosystem," says Midia Shikh Hassan, Manager of the MakerLaunch. "It is designed to empower entrepreneurs with the tools, resources and network to help them thrive to a new level. The program is not a typical one-model-fits-all, but rather a customizable approach to create a growth environment to propel startups.” 

Applications are open for individuals and teams interested in the MakerLaunch program. To apply, visit makerlaunch-uOttawa.ca.