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Business accelerator opens at University

Over 14 weeks, participants will learn how to turn their innovative ideas into products and services… and maybe even create a startup company
2017-12-08 Accelerator Guelph
Accelerator Guelph associate director Dana McCauley and researchers Ibrahim Deiab and John Cloutier. Photo courtesy of Dana McCauley

Mechanical engineering professor Ibrahim Deiab and his students at the University of Guelph want to develop a low-cost 3-D printer for metal and bioproducts.

They definitely have the engineering savvy to do so. Deiab is a licensed professional engineer, professor and an expert in areas such as manufacturing, metal cutting, fixture dynamics, environment friendly machining, additive manufacturing and CAD/CAM/CAE.

And his students, members of his third-year manufacturing course, are eager – like their professor, they think the printer has the potential for commercialization.

On campus, initiatives exist such as the CBaSE program to help foster entrepreneurial thinking and business development across disciplines. Now, a new initiative is being launched to complement those opportunities.

In January, Deiab and five other teams will be take part in the maiden voyage of a program called Accelerator Guelph. It’s a workshop and mentorship-based entrepreneurship support program, designed specifically for academics who want to create and grow agri-food and biotech businesses.

Over 14 weeks, participants such as Deiab will learn how to turn their innovative ideas into products and services… and maybe even create a startup company.

He’s looking forward to learning from it.

“I’d like to educate myself and learn how to assess the market value and potential,” he says. “This knowledge is useful for me when I visit and meet with potential industrial partners.” As well, it gives him a chance to pay it forward and mentor his engineering design students, about entrepreneurship, business model feasibility, and value proposition.

“I believe this is very useful for them, but it’s not available in our current curriculum,” he says.

Accelerator Guelph augments the University’s strategic choice to catalyze discovery and change, says Dana McCauley, associate director of new venture creation.

“There is so much transformational science happening on this campus,” she says. “I know that helping researchers learn how to take their ideas to the next level to create real world impact is going to enhance the university’s reputation as a research innovation leader.

McCauley says the Accelerator Guelph program “should create added value for the participants, the university and hopefully Canada, as our graduates launch companies that make it possible to feed nine billion people sustainably.”

The Accelerator will be based out of the Research Innovation Office, through which staff and external seasoned business mentors help researchers protect intellectual property, “de-risk” different technologies and prototypes, find the best product-market fit, and explore various business models to sustainably support launching new products.

But now, with support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the centre has the resources to help inventors learn how to actually start a business. 

“That’s called ‘gap’ funding,” says David Hobson, manager of technology transfer for the Research Innovation Office. “It supports the huge amount of work that comes between the discovery and commercialization, and it’s the hardest money to find.”

With the accelerator, participants will take part in weekly workshops to create a business, based on their research or new technology. Among the topics they’ll cover include market analysis, sales channels, minimum viable product, financial analysis and forecasting, company culture and leadership team creation, reporting and regulations and cash flow management to name a few.

Deiab’s application has already been accepted. The selection committee is now choosing the remaining five teams from a field of 20 applicants. The full cohort will be announced Jan. 19.

Accelerator Guelph is licensed program from the Waterloo Accelerator Centre.