The Province of Ontario, the Ontario Centres of Excellence, IBM Canada and Communitech jointly unveiled the IBM Innovation Incubator at the Communitech Data Hub, Wednesday.

The initiative is part of the IBM Innovation Incubator Project, fuelled by a previously announced $22.75 million in provincial funding and an additional investment of $24.75 million from IBM.

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Daiene Vernile, MPP for Kitchener-Centre and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, said “This partnership for the IBM Innovation Incubator will help support Waterloo Region businesses as they fast track new technologies while competing in the global marketplace.” (Communitech photo: Phil Froklage)

“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, it’s data,” said Kevin Tuer, Communitech Vice-President of Strategic Initiatives and Managing Director of Canada’s Open Data Exchange, which is housed at the Data Hub.

The IBM Innovation Incubator Project includes five co-located innovation spaces across Ontario. Its mandate is to help small-to-medium startups launch new technology and products and leverage the booming field of big data.

The Communitech Data Hub opened in May and houses Canada’s Open Data Exchange. The 19,000-plus square foot facility encourages collaboration among startups, global brands, government agencies and academic institutions to harness the potential of Big Data and in so doing further drive innovation, particularly in the fields of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, which are heavily data dependent.

“Kitchener-Waterloo is a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurialism, so frankly if we’re going to work in an entrepreneurial-innovation ecosystem we better be here [at the Data Hub],” said IBM Canada’s Senior Innovation Executive Allen Lalonde. “We have to be here.”

Lalonde said he hopes the artificial intelligence capabilities of IBM’s Watson and its Bluemix cloud platform will help companies to achieve their research and development goals faster and spur growth.

“We believe in really helping entrepreneurs to not only access, but adopt, disruptive technologies and to adopt those technologies in context – to use their ideas with a customer in mind, with enterprise need in mind, with global markets in mind.

“And I think that’s what we can bring to this environment that perhaps others can’t, or that is unique to IBM.”

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Francis Coral-Mellon, co-founder and CEO of Waterloo Region startup Viral360. (Communitech photo: Phil Froklage)

One Waterloo Region startup already reaping the benefit of IBM’s presence is Viral360, a Kitchener-based company that uses predictive analytics to help companies target “the right message to the right audience.”

“[IBM] helped us leapfrog,” said co-founder and CEO Francis Coral-Mellon. “The networking-in-tech aspects —  they made their technologists very available right away to help implement, to help take us through everything, to brainstorm.

“When you’re in an IBM incubator space, your world opens up a bit more. Connecting with these bigger brands is ideal towards meeting new people who possibly can take your business forward.”

Lalonde said the Data Hub and its open-data mandate align with IBM’s corporate DNA.

“We’ve been an open company since our very inception more than 100 years ago,” said Lalonde. “We’ve always built the company around the concept of collaboration, around the concept of innovation, around the concept of sharing and ultimately around the concept of openness.

“[The programming language] Java is an example. It was developed in conjunction with IBM, and made available on an open platform.

“We support open capabilities, we support open networks and we will continue to do so.”

On hand for Wednesday’s announcement were: Daiene Vernile, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Research, Innovation and Science and MPP for Kitchener-Centre; Tom Corr, President and CEO, Ontario Centres of Excellence; Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky; and Bardish Chagger, MP for Waterloo and Minister of Small Business and Tourism.

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Dignitaries at Wednesday’s launch of the IBM Innovation Incubator, from left: Joseph Bou Younes, Data Executive in Residence at Canada’s Open Data Exchange; Bardish Chagger, MP for Waterloo and Minister of Small Business and Tourism; Tom Corr, President and CEO, Ontario Centres of Excellence; Tom Jaworsky, Mayor of the City of Waterloo; Daiene Vernile, MPP for Kitchener-Centre and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Research, Innovation and Science; Allen Lalonde, Senior Innovation Executive at IBM Canada; and Kevin Tuer, Vice-President, Strategic Initiatives and Managing Director, Canada’s Open Data Exchange. (Communitech photo: Phil Froklage)

About The Author

Craig Daniels
Senior Journalist

Craig Daniels is a veteran reporter, columnist and editor who has joined Communitech’s editorial team as senior journalist. He worked most recently at Postmedia in Hamilton, where he led the team that produced the National Post, and before that at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, Financial Post, the Montreal Daily News and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, N.B. He has an abiding interest in the transformational power and promise of tech and startup ecosystems, is a commercially licensed pilot, and has a debilitating wrist-watch fetish.