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North York City Centre - Willowdale : Innovation + Job News

33 North York City Centre - Willowdale Articles | Page: | Show All

York University professor part of team that won Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics

Dr. Sampa Bhadra, a York University physics professor, is part of Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) team that won the prestigious 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. 

The prize is meant to “recognize those individuals who have made profound contributions to human knowledge,” according to the website, and includes a reward of $3 million. 

The team won the prize for “for the fundamental discovery of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics.”

However, working with a team of 1,370 other scientists, she admits she won’t see a large chunk of the $3 million prize—but is excited to have been part of such a discovery. “it will be a pretty good dinner and maybe I can celebrate with some of my other colleagues!” Dr. Bhadra says. “I am lucky to be working on neutrino physics at a time when several experiments, including our T2K experiment, have made critical discoveries within a relatively short time period.” 

While Dr. Bhadra says that this technology is possible to apply to photosensor technology, as with most scientific breakthroughs, it’s hard to tell whether this discovery will be integral to others in the future. “In science there is often a time lag between new technology and widespread application,” explained Dr. Bhadra.

Ontario spending $6.8m on campus-based accelerator programs

The provincial government continues to unroll elements of its youth jobs strategy. The latest announcement came recently from Reza Moridi, minister of research and innovation. The program is called Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLAs), and the goal is to help student entrepreneurs "harness their ideas, their vision and their enthusiasm and turn them into jobs for today and for tomorrow," he said in a statement outlining the initiative.

CLAs will provide funding to select post-secondary institutions across Ontario t"o create, improve and sustain a culture of entrepreneurship among students and youth in their regions, and to integrate these entrepreneurial activities with investors, industry, and other stakeholders in their region. The Toronto-area institutions to receive funding under the program:
  • The University of Toronto, which will receive just over $3 million in funding over two years. That money will be distributed across the university's existing accelerator programs: the Creative Destruction Lab (Rotman School of Management); the Hatchery (at the faculty of applied science and engineering); the Impact Centre (based in the faculty of arts and science); and UTEST (the university's Innovation and Partnerships Office). U of T’s Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will also be involved, coordinating efforts at the three different campuses.
  • Centennial College, which is partnering with ventureLAB (a non-profit regional innovation centre). Their goal is to help support the creation of 60 businesses in the coming two years, and they will be focusing their work on several priority neighbourhoods within Toronto, to try to reach youth who might not have ready access to accelerator opportunities otherwise.
  • Ryerson University is receiving $2 million from the CLA program, and will use the money to support existing entrepreneurial programs, as well as to create "new learning zones includ[ing] the Design and Fabrication Zone, focusing on early stage design and technology; a zone in the new Student Learning Centre; and the Biomedical Zone, to be formed in partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital."
  • OCAD University, which is getting nearly $1 million to support its entrepreneurship and commercialization hub, called the Imagination Catalyst. (As we reported this spring, the Imagination Catalyst also includes a specific stream for social enterprise.)

Across the province the government is planning to put a total of $20 million into CLA programs over the next two years.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Research and Innovation, University of Toronto, Centennial College, Ryerson University, OCAD University

Provincial and federal governments expanding opportunities for skilled immigrants

The Ontario Bridge Training Program assists skilled immigrants by providing support while they get their credentials, licenses, and professional certifications settled in their new home, and helping them find jobs in their fields once they have.

Recently, the provincial and federal governments announced that they will be "expanding and enhancing" the program over the next three years.

Details are right now scarce—representatives for Ontario's Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration could not spell out any of the particulars—but we're told that more announcements are coming soon. What we do know is that the province is putting $63.6 million into the program over three years, and the federal government is kicking in another $16.6 million; of that pot $15 million of provincial money is "additional support."

Mamdouh Shoukri is president of York University, which runs a certification program for skilled immigrants, and which hosted government officials for the announcement. "These important programs are helping to build a globally connected economy and to support diversity in our communities," he said, addressing an audience of dignitaries and skilled immigrants.

Representing the federal government, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander chimed in: "We need to remind ourselves of that economic logic of immigration, of the desire of immigrants themselves to work in their fields, to build lives, to provide for their families, and to contribute."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

Entrepreneur in Residence program kicks off its second year at the Toronto Public Library

Though many of us still think of libraries as a place to pick up the latest fiction or catch up on back copies of favourite magazines, there's a substantial amount of programming that is oriented to very practical, day-to-day aspects of life in the city.

One example: resources available to small businesses, ranging from meeting space to specialized business databases. Libraries are increasingly becoming community hubs in Toronto, places where workshops and other events can be as important as what's on the shelves.

A part of all this: the library's entrepreneur-in-residence program, which is now entering its second year. This year's entrepreneur in residence is Jean Chow, a business coach with decades of small business experience. She'll be officially launching the program with an on-stage Q&A at the Toronto Reference Library on Wednesday, October 2; a second event—a drop-in session for entrepreneurs seeking advice—takes place a week later, on October 9.

It isn't just public events though. Chow will be offering other support as well. "Part of the [program's] mandate," she explains, "is to have a look at newly submitted business ideas, and…select 20 of them to give one-on-one consultations on how entrepreneurs can start their business." Effectively, Chow will be providing a free session of business coaching to each of the 20 applicants whose ideas she thinks are most promising. (If you're interested in taking part, you have until October 16 to submit your application.)

We asked Chow what she'd be looking for in the proposals, and what would make an applicant stand out.

"Number one," she says, "what i'm looking for is uniqueness and how well you know your customer. You know not only what you're selling, but who you're selling to." She wants ideas she hasn't heard before, and ones that are well-timed given current trends. After that, Chow goes on, what matters is the applicants themselves—whether they have any entrepreneurial experience (even with a family member who might have exposed them to the mindset a new business owner needs) and whether they are deeply passionate about their idea.

But what's most important to Chow is that people come out, and give a workshop or an application a try. "The library programs are free and they're good for any level of business learning," she emphasizes, and taking steps to learn more is the essential first step.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Jean Chow, Entrepreneur in Residence, Toronto Public Library

New report published on immigrant entrepreneur challenges and opportunities

We know, broadly speaking, the key factors that help create the conditions for success for would-be entrepreneurs. They include access to capital, mentorship, and a very practical knowledge of day-to-day business operations. However, though Canada--and especially Toronto--have very high rates of immigration, we tend to spend less time thinking and talking about the challenges that are specific to immigrant entrepreneurs, and the conditions for success that are particularly pertinent to newer Canadians.

Stepping in to the breach is North York Community House, which recently released a study (conducted with the help of Public Interest) examining precisely those issues.

The report, DIY: Immigrant Entrepreneurs are Doing it for Themselves, looks at the specific challenges immigrant entrepreneurs face, and in the process outlines some major opportunities for offering more and better support to this community.

Among the report's key findings: English language skills, and knowledge about the mechanics of opening a business--the rules and regulations and procedures and nitty-gritty details--are two of the biggest determinants of success of failure for immigrant entrepreneurs. Mentorship and entrepreneurial experience (either directly, or within one's family) are also crucial--and all of these can be particular challenges for new immigrants, who may not have ready access to many of these supports in the way that Canadian-born entrepreneurs might.

"There are some really good programs going in Toronto for newcomer entrepreneurs," says Shelley Zuckerman, executive director of North York Community House, "but there aren't a lot."

She goes on to explain that there are some very targeted supports in place, for particular demographics or providing very specific services, but there simply isn't a sufficient number or variety of programs to meet the demand. "There's definitely a need for more mentorship programs," she says, especially for people without a family history of entrepreneurship, and especially aimed at those who are trying to get started with very small businesses.

At the most general level, the report finds that immigrant entrepreneurs fall into two main groups: those who are "pulled" towards entrepreneurship, who are attracted to it and choose it and arrive in Canada with that course of action in mind, and those who are "pushed" towards it, who don't find satisfactory or sufficient employment elsewhere and turn to entrepreneurship to close their income gap, or provide more flexibility in their scheduling and family life.

It's the latter group in particular that needs the most support, since it generally consists of people who have fewer resources (both financially and in terms of a pre-existing knowledge base), and aren't quite ready to hit the ground running. Even simple things like how language classes are structured can make a significant difference, explains Zuckerman.

"One of the difficulties around language for immigrants is that a lot of the language classes are during the day, or quite intense, so if you're running a business [at the same time] it can be quite challenging to attend," she says.

NYCH convened a roundtable of groups offering services to immigrant entrepreneurs in the course of putting together the study; that group will continue meeting now that the results have been released, to share more information and examine how they might coordinate their services more effectively.

They'll also be discussing the "need for government and funders to look at different ways of supporting small entrepreneurs" and, in particular, try to learn more about how services can be best structured to be of greatest value.

DIY: Immigrant Entrepreneurs are Doing it for Themselves is available online [PDF].

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Shelley Zuckerman, Executive Director, North York Community House

New entrepreneurship institute launches for Toronto and York Region

Many of Toronto's growing roster of accelerators, incubation labs, and other innovation centres are based in the downtown core--close to research facilities, universities, hospitals, and other amenities. But we need innovation across the city, and it's with just that goal in mind that a brand new accelerator, the York Entrepreneurship Development Institute, has been launched. The first cohort will begin the program this September.

One thing that organizers are emphasizing with this program in particular is the social and cultural value entrepreneurship can contribute to a community. Accepted fellows will fall into two groups: 10 entrepreneurs will be on a for-profit track, and another 10 on a not-for-profit track. YEDInstitute is hoping to support growth in traditional businesses and in non-profits equally, and is accepting applicants with an a wide range of sectors, from health and wellness to agriculture to real estate.

The goal, explains program director Dana Ayrapetyan, is to help the non-profit sector become more self-sufficient. "It is not as efficient as it could be," she says, and developing a stronger entrepreneurial culture around socially-motivated ventures is important for that reason.

More broadly, the 12-week program was created because the founders saw that "so many of the projects coming out of the current start-up ecosystem…had received seed funding but not necessarily long term business plan preparation, [and] couldn't establish long-term success. Those gems weren't really emerging."

YEDInstitute will combine both academic training with applied skills. Another contrast with other accelerators: selected participants won't receive funding up front, as part of their acceptance, but upon completion of the program they'll pitch the institute's own venture capital fund, for a chance to secure up to $500,000.

Applications are now open, and available online.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Dana Ayrapetyan, Program Director, York Entrepreneurship Development Institute

Correction notice: We originally misdescribed the program as being a project of York University directly. In fact, it is based out of the Schulich Executive Education Centre, but does not belong to York University or the Schulich School of Business.

New study examines long-term fate of immigrant workers

Though Toronto prides itself on being a welcoming place for immigrants--half of us come from elsewhere, after all--a new study shows that the long-term employment prospects for immigrants are often bleaker than for those born here.

The study, An Immigrant All Over Again? Recession, Plant Closures and (Older) Racialized Immigrant Workers, comes out of the Centre for Labour Management Relations at Ryerson University, and examined what happened when more than 2,000 Toronto-area workers--a large majority of whom were racialized immigrants--suddenly lost their jobs when auto-parts manufacturer Progressive Moulded Products shut down a local factory in 2008.

Researchers tracked the employees in the years that followed, following their experiences in the labour market, with retraining programs, in temp agencies, and elsewhere. They note, especially, that since those workers had been coming out of a long-term stable employment situation, they "might have been considered successfully 'settled' and 'integrated'."

Unfortunately, the report goes on, "participants' struggles to find the appropriate training and stable re-employment in the years after the [plant's] closure suggest that, for many immigrant workers, their immigrant status never disappears."

Among the study's key findings:

  • Only one third of the workers studied have found secure full-time employment since the plant shut down.
  • Men have had an easier time finding re-employment of any kind.
  • While half the study's participants completed career retraining, only one quarter of that group found work in their new field.
  • While 42 per cent of the study's participants found new work via temp agencies, many found those agencies to be "exploitative and discriminatory."
  • Almost 70 per cent of workers surveyed "believe discrimination has been a barrier…in getting work."
The study has put together a series of detailed recommendations emerging out of its research, ranging from increased regulation of temp agencies to the suggestion that settlement services "should not be restricted solely for newcomers… Services should be extended to all users based on needs instead of being determined by the length of their stay in Canada."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan

Waterloo's ClevrU acquires Toronto e-learning company NewMindsets

In 2001, back when many of us were on our first email accounts and nobody had yet dreamed of Wikipedia, a new e-learning company was incorporated in Toronto.

Called NewMindsets, the company was founded to "help improve personal and team work effectiveness by offering situation-based solutions"--that is, with a focus on practical problem-solving strategies. The company's work was based on research conducted by two professors at York's Schulich School of Business, Gareth Morgan and Jean Adams.

Now, NewMindsets has been acquired by Waterloo-based e-learning company ClevrU, which wants to take the insights and content developed by NewMindsets and introduce them to clients internationally.

ClevrU is "in the space of providing a global online learning platform," explains CEO Mark Arnason. Its focus on emerging global markets requires ClevrU to ensure they have everything from servers in their countries of operations to multi-lingual services to mobile-friendly technology that can be easily used by users who may not have ready access to desktop machines. And what they are hoping they can offer those users elsewhere, in the wake of this acquisition, is insight into North American business practices.

NewMindsets' business focus, "especially around leadership learning," Arnason says, is particularly useful in this context. One of ClevrU's markets is China, where they have more than 58,000 users and 130,000 social media followers so far--and where, he goes on, "there is a thirst for North American business content." It's not, Arnason explains, an interest in traditional courses such as accounting, but rather in learning to navigate North American markets. It's the type of softer skill that can be especially important for business leaders who are accustomed to working elsewhere.

NewMindsets and ClevrU were connected in part thanks to MaRS Innovation, which introduced the two companies and helped them work out the details of the acquisition.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Mark Arnason, CEO, ClevrU

Toronto startups place among the top finalists in national Techvibes awards

Technology news site Techvibes has just unveiled the finalists for 2012's Canadian Startup Awards with Toronto startups snagging more spots than any other city. 

The finalists this year were selected from "well over 1,200 nominees," writes Techvibes president Rob Lewis in a blog post announcing the shortlist. It's a list, happily, that features many Toronto startups, and includes several you might have learned about here on Yonge Street.

Among them are photo sharing site 500px, which has seen exponential growth in its staff over the past year, and also made its first acquisition, Algo Anywhere, in 2012; Wave, which makes cloud-based apps for small businesses; and data sharing platform Hubba, which helps retailers and brands tell their stories more effectively.

Techvibes introduced the awards, in conjunction with consulting firm KPMG, just last year. Toronto-based e-reading company Wattpad won that inaugural award, after more than 11,000 votes were cast.

You have until midnight on Friday, January 25 to cast your ballot.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Techvibes

Tesla opens first Canadian store in Yorkdale

When engineer Nikola Tesla died, it was as a penniless eccentric. Though he had attained wealth and recognition for his many technological breakthroughs and patents, later in his life he lost hold of those achievements as he pursued a great many further experiments.

Over the past decade or two, his reputation has undergone significant rehabilitation. Like many innovations, it turns out, his work faced several setbacks before it found a firmer footing. The car company founded in 2003 and named after him—Tesla Motors—makes electric vehicles, with motors based on his original designs. And earlier this month, Tesla Motors opened its first Canadian store to help showcase those electric vehicles. It's located, perhaps surprisingly, in a mall: Yorkdale, where it's part of the shopping centre's recent renovation and expansion.

Vice-president of worldwide sales George Blankenship highlighted that seemingly incongruous location choice in a press statement, explaining that Tesla's primary goal "continues to be focused on informing as many people as possible about EVs.... Customers in our store are invited to ask questions and engage with informative product specialists to learn more about the many advantages of driving an electric car."

It's certainly an education many of us lack right now—for the moment, electic cars remain novelties in Toronto. We are, however, slowly building up more infrastructure to support them. Charging stations are available in several locations across the city, and a city-run pilot project for several more is in the works.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: George Blankenship, Vice-President, Worldwide Sales and Ownership Experience, Tesla Motors

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

Federal government invests in 2 seniors health research projects

As Canada's population ages and baby boomers make increasing demands for healthcare support that allows them to live vibrantly and independently, research into technologies and therapies that can provide better quality of life for seniors is ramping up.

The lastest announcement: the federal government is investing nearly $1 million in five research projects aiming to improve seniors' activity levels, including two based in Toronto, at York and the University of Toronto. The projects are funded via the European Research Area on Ageing (ERA-AGE), a Europe-based research program; Canadian participants will be working with colleagues from several European nations, as well as Israel. The overall funding envelope for the projects is approximately $5 million.

The projects tackle a range of issues in seniors' day-to-day lives, ranging from assistive technologies to navigating the complexities of urban life. Toronto researchers will be working on two projects—each of which will receive about $225,000—Healthy Ageing in Residential Places (York University), and Hearing, Remembering and Living Well: Paying Attention to Challenges of Older Adults in Noisy Environments (University of Toronto).

The York University project is exploring ways to use technological supports in the home to allow seniors to maintain both physical and mental activity. The University of Toronto initiative is looking at methods of helping seniors communicate effectively in noisy environments, when it can be harder to make sense of a great deal of incoming auditory information.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Office of Alice Wong, Minister of State  for Seniors

North America's first parcel pick-up network launches in the GTA

Every so often—and especially at this time of year, when many of us are ordering presents and holiday gear—you come home to one of those annoying notices flapping on your door. Missed delivery.

To help shoppers (and the businesses trying to send them their goods) avoid that frustration, a new network of parcel pick-up stations has just launched in the GTA called BufferBox. There will be eight stations in Toronto by the end of this week, with several more elsewhere in the region. Another 10 are expected by year's end, with the goal of expanding nationwide.

To use the service, someone signs up with BufferBox and selects a home location—one of the pick-up stations that have been installed—and then provides that address to a company when ordering items for delivery. When the parcel arrives, BufferBox puts the package in a locker within the station, and then sends you an email with single-use PIN, which you use to open the box and retrieve your item.

The initial set of locations is geared to commuters and transit users: in its first partnership, BufferBox is working with Metrolinx and has installed parcel boxes in five GO stations (Union, Clarkson, Burlington, Oakville, and Port Credit). Three other parcel stations are in 7-Eleven locations, and in the near future, BufferBox also hopes to announce a supermarket partner.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Brad Moggach, Sales & Marketing Director, BufferBox

$5.4M invested in new Alzheimer's technologies

As the country's demographic profile shifts, more and more attention is being paid to the diseases of old age—diseases which, as life spans increase, will correspondingly increase in frequency. Recently, the federal government announced a $5.4-million investment into bringing new Alzheimer's treatments to market.

The investment, announced by Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology (also responsible for Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), will facilitate the creation of the Centre of Innovation Excellence for Alzheimer's Care with the new B'nai Brith Alzheimer's Home. That new centre will host what's being described as an "innovation laboratory" to test new Alzheimer's-related technologies, ranging from diagnostic tests to monitoring tools. The Centre of Innovation Excellence for Alzheimer's Care (based at the University of Western Ontario) is a partner in the new project, as are several local health care companies. 

Among the tools whose efficacy and marketability they will be testing are technologies that facilitate communication between Alzheimer's patients and family members or friends (an attempt to mitigate the isolation many patients experience), and monitoring tools which allow health care providers to check on a patient's vital signs and status remotely. 

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Office of Gary Goodyear

Feds work with York U, NexJ & McMaster to launch cloud computing system for medical care

Though it can take decades and be fraught with peril—witness any number of eHealth controversies in Ontario—Canadian jurisdictions are gradually making headway in their quest to modernize the delivery of healthcare in this country. The latest initiative: storing medical records via cloud-based tools, to allow both patients and healthcare providers to access them easily, quickly and from anywhere.

Last week the federal government announced what it is calling the Connected Health and Wellness Project, which will aim to drastically simplify our ability to access our own medical files. The project is spearheaded by a partnership between York University, North York-based NexJ Systems (which specializes in cloud software) and McMaster University. It will see the creation of a set of online tools which will allow patients, their health care providers and supporting parties (such as family members involved in medical care) the capacity to access and share information, and also to work collaboratively on ongoing health management issues. For example, a diabetic patient could automatically update her file with the latest information about her diet, exercise and insulin levels, while a nurse or physician could moniter that patient's status remotely by accessing that information in real time.

The Federal Economic Development Agency will be contributing $15.5 million to the project; private investment partners have contributed more than $23 million. In total, there are 16 public, private, not-for-profit and academic partners involved, also including George Brown and Seneca colleges, the University Health Network and Research in Motion.

One potential growth area opened up by projects like this is the relatively new field of health coaching, which governments are hoping will help lower healthcare costs through ongoing management of and support for patients between doctors' appointments.

The technologies being developed under the auspices of the Connected Health and Wellness Projected are expected to be commercialized and reach the market in about two years.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Office of Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
33 North York City Centre - Willowdale Articles | Page: | Show All
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