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Civic Impact

Next Big Idea contest partners Canadian and UK tech startups

In 2016, Ryerson's DMZ will host two tech startups from the Birmingham Innovation Campus as part of the Next Big Idea contest.

For start-ups looking to take their next big step, the international marketplace is a natural progression. But knowing where to start, and what connections to make, can be a daunting process. Enter the Next Big Idea contest, a unique partnership between Toronto and Birmingham, UK, aimed at giving tech start-ups a leg up.

The contest, which is open until December 15 to any Canadian tech start-up headquartered in Ontario, will select two winners from both Toronto and the UK. Those start-ups will be sent on a mission across the Atlantic to help build home-grown traction in an international setting. “On day one, they’ll be welcomed into a thriving ecosystem, and they’ll spend two weeks immersed in that environment, surrounded by other entrepreneurs in a friendly, collaborative environment,”  says Brendan Dellandrea, Director of Communications and Marketing at Ryerson’s DMZ. The DMZ has partnered with UK-based Innovation Birmingham Campus to provide winners with airfare, accommodations, tailored mentorship programs, workspaces, and carefully curated networking opportunities.

The program, which has already partnered with innovation zones in India, is working with Birmingham for the first time.  “Birmingham has a lot in common with Ontario. It’s one of the most entrepreneurial areas in the UK, and the strongest growth and economic output outside of London. They’re one of the most diverse cities in the UK, so there’s a nice parallel with Toronto in that respect,” says Dellandrea. “We want to lower the barriers to international growth by lowering the barriers and making that international transition as painless as possible.”

Dellandrea sees the contest, and the partnership with Birmingham Innovation Campus, as a natural extension of the DMZ’s strengths. “We’re looking to build on a strong partnership foundation, to help create connection to enable our entrepreneurs to go global. Marketplaces are increasingly global, and competitions and opportunities are global. We’re hoping to inspire the entrepreneurs here, and across Ontario, about where their businesses can go on the next few years."
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