by Kelvin McDermott
2017 marks the eighth year of Techno, the Impact Centre’s elite entrepreneurship training program. After working with over 120 teams in one of the longest-running entrepreneurship programs in Toronto, Impact Centre mentors still strive to help entrepreneurs bring their science and innovations to society. To mark the anniversary, we’re looking back at eight areas where Techno alumni companies are making a difference around the globe: Accessibility, Transportation, Diagnostics, Lighting, AR/VR, Digital Health, Education, and Therapeutics.
Both Arjun Mali and Bin Liu, co-founders of iMerciv, have a personal connection to vision loss: while Mali’s family has long supported a school and orphanage for the blind in India, Liu’s father lives with inoperable glaucoma and faces worsening blindness. Their improved safety solution is the BuzzClip, a complementary mobility tool that uses ultrasound to detect obstacles above the waist.
Mali said of Techno, “iMerciv Inc. would not be where [it is] today without the help of the Impact Centre…[the program] provides a platform to turn creative ideas into a real impactful business.”
iMerciv isn’t the only program alum devoted to improving accessibility. Sense Intelligent develops hearing assistive technology to improve communication for the deaf and hard of hearing. In addition, Techno alumni Braze Mobility and Steadiwear have developed products to improve the safety of motorized wheelchairs and improve the quality of life for those living with hand tremors.
Driven by desire for a cleaner planet, Sojourn Labs is reimagining urban transportation. With this passion (and Toronto’s fitful climate) in mind, co-founders Phil Lam and Jonathan Lung set out to build a safe and comfortable year-round vehicle. Their prototype combines the utility of a typical car with the environmental sustainability of bicycles. After exhibiting its first prototype at 2014’s TechnoShowcase, the company was featured at U of T’s Sustainability Conference and on programs like Innerspace and BBC Click.
Pathcore is a leading innovator in digital pathology. The company offers medical imaging tools designed to help translate research into applied solutions. Its range of software allows pathologists to do everything from simplify their workflow, to align and colour correct histology images, to build their own image analysis algorithms.
Lumentra specializes in products, services and consulting for the Light Emitting Diode (LED) industry. As part of the cleantech sector, its solutions improve LED performance and efficiency while reducing cost and energy consumption. Lumentra remains closely affiliated with the Impact Centre, having partnered with the Smart Sustainable Lighting Network earlier this year to sponsor the 2017 Beyond Lighting Conference.
Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) has been a hot tech topic for some time, but two particular Techno alumni have taken some unique approaches to the industry.
ARnocular describes itself as Toronto’s “first city-scale augmented reality platform.” It’s simple to install, features open-source applications and works seamlessly on all devices from mobile phones to AR-enabled glasses. During Entrepreneurship@UofT Week, the company even organized an AR bus tour through the university’s main campus.
Meanwhile, BreqLabs’ ExoGlove VR controller could be an answer to cries for more immersive VR experiences. This sensor glove technology uses ultrasonic localization (similar to what bats use in the dark) to track the hands and fingers with impressive accuracy and response times. The company’s current projects include integration into 3D gaming and workplace training simulations.
Since 2012, iamsick.ca has connected Canadians with healthcare when and where they need it. The company’s website and mobile app allow users to find their nearest healthcare provider, book appointments online and even find doctors who speak specific languages. In 2016, an Arabic version of the app was introduced to help Syrian refugees navigate Canadian healthcare.
“The Impact Centre nurtures entrepreneurship through its community, Techno program, and ongoing mentorship and workshops,” said Ryan Doherty, president and co-founder of iamsick.ca. “Together, this creates the foundation from which sustainable companies can be built.”
A shared passion for science and education led Joshua Moscattini and Dr. Ulrich Fekl to create RealAtoms, a company that produces dynamic molecular model kits for teachers and students. Much like actual molecules, these models can easily change their shape and structure during “reactions,” fostering a more realistic and flexible (literally) learning experience than conventional ball and stick representations.
On the non-profit side, Pueblo Science works to give children in low-resource areas access to hands-on science education. The organization conducts programs in Ontario and abroad, with members having worked in places like the Philippines, Thailand, Guyana, India and Bolivia. Since 2011, its initiatives have engaged nearly 250,000 students worldwide.
Backed by organizations like National Research Council Canada and the Michael J Fox Foundation, Oxalys Pharmaceuticals seeks to make brain heath therapy accessible for everyone. The company works collaboratively with global neurology experts to develop breakthrough and transformative treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.
Similar to AR/VR, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have become persistent tech buzzphrases. However, Techno alum Atomwise has re-envisioned these ideas with AtomNet, first deep leaning neural network for structure-based drug design and discovery. Back in 2016, Atomwise raised $6 million in seed funding from science-focused venture capital firms. The company has also forged partnerships with institutions like Stanford University, Notable Labs and SickKids to combat diseases ranging from Ebola to brain cancer to multiple sclerosis.
Kelvin McDermott is a Communications Intern at the Impact Centre