Startups are being propelled to new heights through the MakerLaunch program

Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Engineering.

With a third cohort coming to an end and new applications inbound, the MakerLaunch startup accelerator based in uOttawa’s Faculty of Engineering continues its mission to fast track students and recent alumni entrepreneurs as they launch new technology-based ventures.

MakerLaunch is a 9-month, milestone-based accelerator program that provides critical support for students and recent alumni including: dedicated advisors, prototyping facilities, and $50,000 in the form of a non-dilutive grant. At least 50 per cent of team members hail from the Faculty of Engineering.

The program is primarily funded by donations from faculty alumni who have become seasoned entrepreneurs throughout their careers and look to provide opportunities for the next wave of Canadian startups. Teams also receive dedicated legal counsel from the generous donation of corporate partner, Brion Raffoul, providing founders with an invaluable foundation for a successful long-term IP strategy.

In its first three years of operation, MakerLaunch has facilitated a connection to local resources that can be difficult for early-stage businesses to access. With the ability to use highly specialized equipment and deep research to compete at a global scale – along with a connection to the uOttawa Engineering Alumni network – the program has opened opportunities for guidance and mentorship, collaboration, and partnerships.

The program is also a Mitacs Approved Incubator, which provides founders with access to significant financial support via wage subsidies.

Through workshops, competitions, and course curriculum, the Faculty of Engineering has made targeted efforts to encourage and support entrepreneurship throughout the student experience. MakerLaunch is the culmination of these efforts, as many students develop their ideas and find their cofounders through these channels. Successful companies will go on to hire fellow students and attract local talent, or possibly seek investment which typically includes local venture capital. Seeing community recognition awards and continued growth from program alumni underscores the importance of providing these supports to students taking the leap to start a technology company.

This year’s cohort persevered through uncertainty and reduced access to both early customers and public spaces. The group consists of:

  • Advanced Environmental Molecular Analytics Ltd. - As cities adapt to new realities of global health pandemics, AEMA Ltd. employs leading research in wastewater surveillance to provide critical epidemiological data points and virus detection to public health organizations. To date, they have tested wastewater samples of upward of 5.7 per cent of the Canadian population, informing public health units of COVID rate changes, days before they are seen through standard testing methods. Founded by Élizabeth Mercier and Patrick D’Aoust.
  • JAMZ Delivery Inc. - JAMZ takes to the air, seeking to develop a reliable network of autonomous drones to lower costs and increase coverage in rural areas, starting with one of the most impacted industries of the pandemic: restaurants and food providers. JAMZ makes use of the dedicated team space on campus to prototype their proprietary drone hardware and have built locally based partnerships to aid with regulatory compliance with Transport Canada. To date, they have an eager wait list of 32 restaurants to begin real world delivery trials.
  • VRapeutic - Led by uOttawa PhD graduate Dr. Ahmad Al-Kabbany and current M.CS (Applied Artificial Intelligence) student Yahya Alaa , VRapeutic applies immersive VR experiences to transform digital health care for therapy and rehabilitation. While the startup is based in Egypt, Ahmad applied to the program with the goal of setting up a long-term headquarters in Ottawa to work with North American clinics and rehabilitation centres – they continue to realize their efforts with an established research collaboration with the Ontario Brain Institute, and the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in York, Ont.

For more information about the program or get involved with MakerLaunch, visit makerlaunch-uottawa.ca/en/

Lionel Regis is the Program Manager for MakerLaunch, the startup accelerator within the Faculty of Engineering. In addition to guiding cohorts throughout the 9-month program, he also manages other entrepreneurial activities within the faculty, including the Concepts Competitions, and the Simon Nehme Summer Entrepreneurship School.  
Prior to joining the university, he previously ran an entrepreneurship program for underrepresented groups with the UN Association in Canada, and provided agile and scrum workshops for early-stage startups with District 3 Innovation Hub in Montreal.