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Central Waterfront : Innovation + Job News

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Toronto Hydro launching world�s first underwater storage system with Toronto startup

Toronto Hydro is teaming up with Toronto startup Hydrostor to launch the world’s first underwater energy storage system. Three kilometres off Toronto Island and located 55 metres underwater, Hydrostor's system is connected to Toronto Hydro's electricity grid, and uses compressed air and the pressure of water to run its system. The technology works by running electricity through a compressor and converting it into compressed air. The compressed air is sent underwater where it is stored in large balloon-like structures, made out of the same type of material used in marine lift bags to raise shipwrecks. When electricity is needed again, the weight of the water pushes the air to the surface through a large pipe and an expander converts the air back into electricity.

“ As this technology is a world first, we’ll be evaluating the system’s versatility during the pilot project under real world operating conditions,” says Jack Simpson, director of generation and capacity planning. “

The technology has the potential to create a new generation of clean energy, as it produces zero emissions and stores electricity during off-peak hours when demand is low and electricity is cheapest. The electricity can then be released again during short-term power outages or high-demand times.

“In these situations, the HydroStor system would be able to release stored energy and provide the grid with an additional resource to help limit peak energy prices, improve power quality and help restore power during an area outage,” says Simpson. 

It will remain there until a two-year pilot study is complete.

OCAD University will be part of waterfront revitalization

Discussions on waterfront revitalization have been a hot topic as of late, and last week news broke that OCAD University and other innovators would be part of the revival.

City of the Arts, a waterfront condo development, is intended to become a mixed-use “live, work and play” neighbourhood. OCAD University will occupy space in the neighbourhood, and reap the benefits of Artscape Launchpad, an incubator for creative professionals.

Artscape Launchpad is described as being “part incubator, part coworking space”, and will provide design professionals with resources and mentorship to build sustainable businesses. As George Brown College is also setting up their School of Design at the waterfront — and the OCAD University and George Brown schools will be working as partners — the presence of the two postsecondary institutions alongside Launchpad will foster a creative community. “When artists and designers converge on a place, they tend to build or infiltrate networks and find ways to leave their mark on it. Part of this stems from a need to find an audience/outlet/market from their creative expression,” said Tim Jones, Artscape president and CEO. “There are positive cultural, social and economic outcomes that flow from their interactions. The cluster becomes a magnet for other innovators, and in the real estate market one finds that galleries, cafes and specialty retailers often follow their lead. All of this leads not only to the physical transformation of a neighbourhood but to a new narrative or identity for it.”

OCAD students will be able to leverage the presence of Artscape to strengthen its own burgeoning art community. “OCAD University’s Campus for a Connected World will amplify the institution’s digitally-focused learning, research and creation, as well as its connection to industry and community partners,” said Dr. Sara Diamond, OCAD University’s president. “OCAD University sees this as an ideal environment to address the challenges and opportunities of the connected world of machine to machine communication - ensuring  that human imagination is in the equation of this future and that values such as social and cultural inclusion, creativity, beauty and great design are core.”

Diamond added that the location will expand on OCAD University’s emphasis on experiential learning. “What is exciting about this project is our plan to create a virtual circle with our industrial and not-for-profit partners,” said Diamond. “Focused on combining excellence in creative education with experiential learning and entrepreneurship, OCAD University is uniquely prepared to train the workforce that will power the 21st century’s digitally connected innovation economy.”


Who's Hiring in Toronto? Top Hat, City of Toronto, Metro News and more

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is looking for a community operations coordinator. This multifaceted role involves a variety of responsibilities, including providing the foundation with data management support, business management support, as well as helping with the onboarding and management of volunteers. Despite the the long list of responsibilities, only a minimum of one to two years in a related field is required to apply.

Top Hat, a Toronto-based startup that creates interactive learning software for classrooms around the world, is looking to fill a variety of positions. Those with a background in software development should check out the company's postings for a full stack developer and a senior quality assurance and test engineer. Those with more of marketing background should look into the company's marketing operations manager posting. Check out Top Hat's website for a full list of positions they're looking to fill.

Journalists looking for a new job should navigate over to Metro's website. Like Top Hat, Canada's second largest daily newspaper is in the process of filling a variety of positions. In Toronto, Metro is seeking two reporters/photographers and a single digital campaign specialist. Those living outside of Toronto are also in luck; Metro is hiring in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Ottawa, as well. For the reporter position, Metro is looking for candidates that have at least four years of experience in the newspaper industry, are well versed in CP style and have familiarity with web content management systems.

Finally, the City of Toronto is looking for someone to take over as the manager of events at Yonge-Dundas Square. The person that takes on this role will be expected to oversee all aspects of the square's yearly events schedule. Major responsibilities include and hiring and managing event coordinators and responding to public protests with "tact and respect towards participants".

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!  

Who's Hiring in Toronto? SickKids Foundation, Canada's National Ballet School and more

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, a non-profit devoted to preserving Ontario's Greenbelt, an area surrounding the Golden Horseshoe, is hiring a research and policy analyst. As the title suggests, the role involves significant amounts of research, though there's a major outreach component as well. Specific requirements include engaging with a variety of government and non-government organizations.

The SickKids Foundation has two new openings this week.

First, they're seeking an associate graphic designer. The position requires three to five years of experience in digital marketing or communications, and will see that the person that takes on this position help the non-profit with its fund raising initiatives on behalf of Sick Kids Hospital.

The foundation is also seeking to hire an associate events director. The role has a significant emphasis on building and mentoring a team, as well as building new and existing events. This position requires five to seven years in a related leadership role.

On the culture side, Canada's National Ballet School is hiring a digital media co-ordinator. The role involves creating audiovisual material that will help with the school's promotional, marketing and educational needs. Three-plus years of related media experience is a requirement of this position, as well as expertise with programs such as Sony Vegas and DVD Architect.

Finally, the National Reading Campaign is looking for someone to join its board of directors as an executive director. Much of the role involves working with a volunteer board, and managing the campaign's initiatives. Candidates living in Toronto are preferred, though those living outside of the city with an exceptional skill sets will also be considered.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!  

Ontario using the Pan Am Games to expand apprenticeship opportunities

Last week, the provincial government announced that it would be be investing an extra $3 million over the next two years in its pre-apprenticeship training program, creating spots for 200 new participants. (A total of 1,100 pre-apprentices are participating in the program this year.) The impetus: the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, and the massive infrastructure projects that are underway to prepare for those Games.

"it's something that's going to build a stronger workforce for us in the years ahead," said Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, while announcing the program expansion, "but it also provides young people in our province with an opportunity for a new career."

The pre-apprenticeship training program is designed to help would-be apprentices prepare and develop the trade-specific skills they need in order to be eligible for full-fledged apprenticeships. An individual participant may be involved in the program—which is free, and also covers program-related related costs such as textbooks—for up to a year. Pre-apprentices may find themselves taking safety courses, doing in-school training, and in short-term work placements, depending on their goals and needs.

Because of the Pan Am Games' many infrastructure projects, skilled construction workers are needed in large numbers; the hope is this program expansion will provide participants with on-the-job learning opportunities, while helping to ensure those projects are delivered on schedule.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Cisco to invest $100 million in a new Toronto Innovation Centre

Major news out of Cisco today: Toronto is one of the four cities internationally that has been selected to host a new Internet of Everything Innovation Centre. (The other cities on the list: Rio de Janeiro; Songdo, South Korea; and a yet-to-be-named city in Germany.)

The 15,000 square foot facility will be part of Cisco's new headquarters, slated to open as part of RBC WaterPark Place in 2015. The $100 million investment in the innovation centre will be spent over 10 years, encompassing design and infrastructure, start-up costs, and ongoing staff and operations.

What, you may be wondering, is the "Internet of Everything"? It's basically just Cisco's term for the growing integration of new systems and aspects of daily life into the internet—the next iteration of the internet's penetration into our lives, and the next layer of connectivity that will generate.

"Today less than one per cent of the things that could be connected, are connected on the internet," explained Cisco Canada president Nitin Kawale when announcing the investment Wednesday morning. "Imagine what's possible if the remaining 99 per cent of things were connected."

The innovation centre will be devoted to exploring some of that potential new connectivity, "a place for our partners, customers, established companies, and start-ups from across North America to work together," Kawale said. "Toronto is a world-class community of creativity and talent. This facility will be a global hub of innovation for the Internet of Everything technologies. It puts Toronto and Cisco on the world stage."

Back in December Cisco also announced that it would be creating "up to 1,700 high tech jobs" in Toronto, with a total employee base of up to 5,000 in the region.

Toronto's Deputy Mayor, Norm Kelly, was on hand for the announcement. "When I look around this room to see the sampling of the technology that you're working with today and what it might be like tomorrow—it's mind-boggling. It really is."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Cisco Canada

Who's Hiring in Toronto? ArtsSmarts, Harbourfront and more

The most interesting opportunities we've spotted this week:

Harbourfront Centre is looking for an integrated communications specialist. It's a fulltime contract position for someone to develop marketing and media plans--both strategy and implementation.

Also in the cultural sector is ArtsSmarts, which helps organize classroom-based arts education programs. They are on the hunt for a project coordinator to help with several programs. It's an early (but not entry) level position, and the post is a nine-month contract.

Finally in this area, WorkInCulture, which supports career development in the cultural sector (in fact, it's the source of those previous two job listings) is seeking a marketing and communications manager; the position is permanent and fulltime.

MaRS Discovery District has a video production unit, which creates event and promotional videos for MaRS and its clients. They need a production/post-production manager to oversee this work and provide strategic advice as necessary. Meanwhile, the Mozilla Foundation is hiring a web developer with at least two years of experience.

For those with an interest in the environment, the Georgian Bay Land Trust needs a new executive director. The position is based in Toronto, but does require frequent travel to Georgian Bay. The charity is hoping to find someone with five to ten years experience, preferably in a non-profit.

In the social services sector, the Jane/Finch Community Centre is looking for a program manager for their Women Moving Forward initiative, a poverty-reduction program for mothers in their twenties. The centre is also looking for a mobilie community financial worker. This position is for someone who works from a variety of locations in the community providing financial management education.

Finally, the Ministry of Transportation is looking for a communications lead to oversee stakeholder and public engagement for the PanAm Games. It's a senior, temporary position that will run for up to two years.

Are you hiring or do you know of a great job opportunity? Let us know!

Toronto among the world's leading cities for startups

"While nearly all high growth technology startups have historically emerged from no more than 3-4 startup ecosystems, namely Silicon Valley and Boston, this trend appears to have reached its end. Simultaneous with a global explosion of entrepreneurship has been an explosion in the rise of new startup ecosystems around the world, and a newfound maturity in others."

So begins a new report from the Startup Genome called the Startup Ecosystem Report (available for free online, though registration is required). And among those ecosystems that are currently flourishing: Toronto, which ranks the highest in Canada on the report's index, and eighth in the world. (Vancouver is right behind us in ninth; more surprisingly Waterloo is further behind, at sixteenth.)

All cities in the index are compared to Silicon Valley (which predictably is the benchmark first-place ecoysystem) across a variety of metrics. While we are similar to Silicon Valley in terms of our level of ambition, our technology adoption rates, our sector mix and mentorship support, one key area of difference, according to the report, is that "startups in Toronto receive 71% less funding than SV startups. The capital deficiency exists both before and after product market fit."

While that may sound like grim news, it actually provides a very useful roadmap for future growth. The report goes on to conclude that the current under-investment in Toronto-area startups "presents a large opportunity for investors. Moreover, "policy makers can help closing the funding gap by attracting late-stage venture funds through tax breaks and incentives, and investor-friendly policies."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Startup Ecosystem Report

Telus to invest $280 million, hire 600+ in the GTA

Last week Telus announced that it would be making major investments in Ontario over the next three years: $650 million, which would support the creation of more than 900 jobs. This week the company explained what that would mean for the GTA—and it's very good news. Of that Ontario investment, $280 million and more than 600 new jobs are coming to the Toronto region.

"The positions are to help keep up with increasing client demand for Telus services, as we bring the world's fastest wireless technology 4G LTE  to Ontario," Telus's Elisabeth Napolano told us. "We need more people to service those customers." This demand comes from mobile subscribers who are seeking to do more with and on their phones: web browsing, video streaming and the like. Wireless demand is exploding as customers become used to treating their phones as mobile computers, using correspondingly more data on the go.

4G is the latest iteration of mobile communications standards, which allows for high speed Internet access on mobile devices. (Specifically, according to Telus, this means peak download speeds of up to 75 megabits per second and an average of 1,225 megabits per second.) 4G is currently available in select cities across Ontario; the just-announced funding will beef up this coverage and expand its range—the goal is to have 95 per cent of Ontarians able to access the 4G network by the time Telus completes this round of upgrades in 2014.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Elisabeth Napolano, Telus Media Relations

Toronto-based cafe chain SPoT Coffee lands $250K investment to continue its rapid expansion

The Toronto-based gourmet café chain SPoT Coffee recently announced it had secured $250,000 in financing to fund its rapid expansion in Toronto and across Ontario and Western New York. The money will help with the opening of two new locations this summer, one in North York and one in Buffalo, according to the news release.

Director Alex Gress says the company, founded in 2004, currently has 10 locations either open or under construction, and expects to be announcing further locations soon. Gress estimates they employ more than 400 people.

The chain prides itself on building "community cafés that reflect the local surroundings and communities," Gress says. Each location has distinct artwork and seating to suit its particular environment and serve the area residents. The aim is to have each café be unique, Gress says, while also having a formula of sorts to ensure that the successful elements are replicable in new locations.

"Yes, there's a formula to replicate the uniqueness," Gress jokes.

In Toronto, where the company's world headquarters are located, Gress points to the Bremner Boulevard location near the CityPlace condo development and the soon-to-be-opened "Park Place" location in North York as examples of a successful partnership with developer Concord Adex.

"We essentially have a right of first refusal to lease prime locations in their developments," Gress says. And those are large developments. Gress says their North York location will be in an area expected to house 290,000 residents. Future possible locations with Concord Adex include the Concord Parade development near Bathurst and Lakeshore.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Alex Gress, Director, SPoT Coffee

Pan Am construction on the way to creating 700 direct jobs

As recently reported by Yonge Street, work has now begun on the Athletes Village for the Pan Parapan American Games on the waterfront. The project is as much an employment story as it it a develoopment story. The construction, handled by EllisDon, will create 700 direct jobs, according to Infrastructure Ontario's Mandy Downes.

"Currently there are already 50 workers onsite," Downes says, "carpenters, engineers, supervisors and security. At the peak of construction, the project will employ 700 in construction." Those are just some of the 5,200 jobs the Ministry of Finance estimates the project will "create and support" directly and indirectly.

The Athletes Village will transform part of the waterfront, adding more than a thousand new residential units as well as a streetcar line and a residence for George Brown College after the games in 2015.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Mandy Downes, Infrastructure Ontario

Toronto's Beanfield Metroconnect will create ultra-high-speed broadband network on Waterfront

Waterfront Toronto announced last week that the residential condos it is building will feature ultra-high-speed fibre-optic internet service. The project will be the first residential connection by Toronto-based internet service provider Beanfield Metroconnect. "It's our first foray into residential service," says Beanfield president Dan Armstrong. "We've built quite a fibre optic network around the downtown core near the waterfront, but we've never had the critical mass to get into condominium buildings."

The service Beanfield offers will see download speeds about double what are possible through conventional providers such as Rogers and Bell, and upload speeds 50 times as fast. "What we're going to see is a significant shift in the way residents in this community use the internet," Armstrong says. While it may seem that such features would be attractive to many condo developers, Armstrong explains that typically service providers pay developers a "doorway fee" to be allowed to install their service into buildings at the construction phase. He says that while many condo boards might prefer the faster service Beanfield offers, the retroactive installation of fibre-optic cabling to every unit post-construction and occupancy is a significant hurdle. And since it is very expensive for Beanfield to install the service, it would be impractical for them to pay doorway fees.

So Waterfront Toronto exercised unique foresight in awarding the contract that will see this project offer premium service to residents. Armstrong says that his company plans to offer a support centre located in the waterfront community, staffed with people who will be available for onsite service. Armstrong says that while specific numbers are difficult to project, he expects to hire "dozens" of staff to fill new jobs on the project.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Dan Armstrong, President and CEO, Beanfield Metroconnect

Local toy maker Spin Master launches youth innovation fund, hiring 16 in GTA now

Toronto-based children's entertainment company Spin Master Ltd. has partnered with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to launch a $500,000 Youth Innovation Fund that offers young entrepreneurs up to $50,000 in start-up financing, as well as mentorship support. In a prepared statement, Spin Master chairman and co-CEO Ronnen Harary said the fund was inspired by 2011 being the Year of the Entrepreneur, and that it was a chance for his company to "give back."

The focus on youth startups is appropriate for Spin Master, not just because they make products for children, but because the company got its start in 1994 when founders Harary, Anton Rabie and Ben Varadi were in university. They had $10,000 to launch a company, and began with an "Earth Buddy" novelty toy�a doll stuffed with seeds that grew living "hair" when watered. Since then, the company has launched dozens of other products for the children's market, opened offices around the world and hired more than 1,000 employees. It is the third-largest children's consumer products company in North America.

It also claims to be the fastest-growing such company, and that growth is evident locally. The company is currently hiring 16 employees for its Toronto office (more in Los Angeles and elsewhere).

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Harold Chizick, VP of Global Communications and Promotions, Spin Master Ltd.

Downtown Toronto startup Synaptop launches new cloud-based operating system

Synaptop, a Toronto startup company based at the foot of Yonge Street, launched it's innovative cloud-computing operating system last month. "It's a virtual operating system built for the current times," says Sami Siddique, Synaptop's president and CEO. He says the system adjusts the focus of software to recognize how people really use the internet, allowing the collaborative and sharing functions of applications such as Facebook and Twitter to apply to every application. "You can follow anyone in any application. You can co-DJ, co-edit, co-browse with your friends."

Siddique, who has a background in computer science and healthcare applications (he did 3D research at the Princess Margaret Hospital) launched the company in 2007. He set out to build a "new entry point to the internet" that allows users to collaborate in work, education and entertainment. That vision was realized with last month's launch.

The product is in Beta mode now, and Siddique says the company plans to launch an assortment of new applications to go alongside the ones available at launch.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Sami Siddique, Synaptop

Toronto education innovators JUMP math draw notice for making math easy

John Mighton, founder of Toronto-based non-profit company JUMP math, says that in his youth he had trouble with mathematics. It was only in his twenties that, doing remedial high-school work, he found it somewhat easier. He wound up getting a doctorate in mathematics in his thirties.

At the time he was a playwright, and so he started tutoring math students to make extra money, he says, and found that students who had previously struggled could learn using his method, which breaks math down into smaller steps to ensure mastery at incremental levels, suddenly excelled. "I found it in myself. I'd always assume I had reached a limit when I came to something new and difficult," he says. "Later, I could teach a course on the material I struggled with."

His method, begun as a workbook-based tutoring system, is now slowly spreading throughout schools in Canada and England. Working with a skeletal staff of 10 in his Toronto office, a growing teacher network has enabled rapid growth in the company's business. "We'll train 2,000 teachers this year, and then they often train other teachers," Mighton says. "Building a teacher network is a very cost-effective method of expanding quickly."

Mighton says that now that a randomized controlled study conducted by Sick Kids' Hospital (noted recently in The New York Times) has demonstrated JUMP math can double a students learning growth over five months, the rate of expansion is expected to grow. "The economic and spiritual loss to our country through innumeracy in the population is vast," Mighton says. "And our program is cheaper than other programs. An investment from a corporate partner or a few large donors could in a very short time mean we could reach every school in the country. The gain to our economy and culture would be tremendous."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: John Mighton, Founder, JUMP math
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