A newly announced regional hub to build better health tech – with a Waterloo/Western University partnership as the innovation driver – is expected to attract up to $400 million in investment in health-related products and services.
The southwestern Ontario hub, based in Kitchener, will receive $10 million in support from FedDev Ontario, federal members of Parliament announced Tuesday morning.
“As a national and global leader in several areas of health research, Western is excited to partner with the University of Waterloo to help drive innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development,” Western president Alan Shepard said in a statement. “Multi-sector collaborations of this kind are key to Canada’s future prosperity.”
Western’s share of the funding is a little more than $2 million.
The federal investment will help support or develop as many as 135 health businesses, create 730 skilled jobs, leverage $40 million in project funding and attract 10 times that amount in investment in innovative companies.
The project will connect early-stage and growing health technology companies with mentorship, product development, labs and clinical trial spaces at University of Waterloo’s planned Innovation Arena and at Western University.
The research and hospital-based strengths of London – in particular through the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Robarts Research Institute – will mesh with Waterloo’s strengths in digital technology.
Other partners include the City of Kitchener and Medical Innovation Xchange, an industry-led cluster dedicated to helping medical technology start-ups scale up in Canada.
London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos and Kitchener-Centre and Kitchener-Conestoga MPs Raj Saini and Tim Louis jointly announced the funding.
“Start-ups in the health tech sector will be able to access the resources they need to develop, test and demonstrate their ideas right here in southwestern Ontario,” Fragiskatos said in a statement.
The global pandemic has emphasized the importance of Canada’s role as a leader in health innovation, added Mélanie Joly, minister of economic development and official languages and minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
“With this investment, we are fostering made-in-Canada health tech solutions, creating highly skilled jobs and supporting the businesses that will keep Canada at the forefront of this vital sector,” Joly said.
In Ontario, the life sciences sector employs almost 90,000 people at more than 6,000 companies; health tech is the fastest growing segment within life sciences.
The planned Innovation Arena is a partnership between the University of Waterloo and Kitchener to further develop the health sciences campus in downtown Kitchener’s Innovation District. It will feature shared product development labs, manufacturing and collaborative office spaces, and will be the new home of Velocity, Waterloo university’s entrepreneurship program.