The Forge: McMaster’s made-in-Hamilton solution for building the local economy

Recipient: McMaster University
Region: Hamilton
Total funding allocated: $1.2 million

Hamilton-area entrepreneurs to get creative, innovative and connected at The Forge's new shared open-concept office and workspace, located at McMaster Innovation Park.

Apple. Disney. Google. Did you know that each of these multi-billion dollar companies humbly started in someone's garage? McMaster University does. And with FedDev Ontario support, the university has officially opened the doors of its own converted "garage," inviting Hamilton-area entrepreneurs to get creative, innovative and connected at The Forge's new shared open-concept office and workspace.

With FedDev Ontario funding of $1.2 million, McMaster has expanded its start-up incubator, The Forge, into a retrofitted 10,000-square-foot parking garage-turned-makerspace at McMaster Innovation Park (MIP). The expansion of MIP, which also houses Innovation Factory (Hamilton’s regional innovation centre) and the Centre for Integrated Transportation and Mobility (a division of Innovation Factory), is allowing The Forge to provide business services and advice, plus ready access to mentors and investors to more than 40 local entrepreneurs and companies each year. That is double the capacity from when the incubator first got off the ground in 2014. FedDev Ontario's partnership has also enabled The Forge to acquire 3D printers and other fabricating equipment to support its start-ups in rapid prototyping.

Gay Yuyitung, Acting Director of The Forge and Executive Director of the McMaster Industry Liaison Office, says the new space and equipment allows McMaster to further support its entrepreneurs as they move their ideas closer to products on the market.

"The makerspace is critical for our clients' success," she says. "It's helping us to meet a growing demand by providing our student and alumni entrepreneurs with the tools they need to advance their business ventures."

One local Hamilton-area start-up, Longan Vision, took residency at The Forge during the pre-commercialization stage of its Fusion Vision System (FVS)—its proprietary system that allows firefighters to see through smoke, locate victims and find fire sources. With access to the prototyping and mentorship, the company was able to receive investments to accelerate the launch of its Augmented Reality Smart Visor as a helmet attachment, enhancing the capability and improving safety for firefighters across North America.

Longan Vision's CTO, Alex Shortt says the company wouldn't exist without The Forge.

"As a hardware-focused company, it can be very difficult to find the resources necessary to make our visioning systems, be it funding, team members or equipment for prototyping," he says. "The Forge offers us not only a space to work from, but also access to prototyping equipment, a range of mentors, as well as funding opportunities. In our residency at The Forge, we have secured funding, grown our team and are closing in on completion of our first product."

The Forge is a made-in-Hamilton solution for building the local economy and community, as it contributes to the commercialization of innovative products and services and creates new jobs. Since its inception, 133 start-up companies have graduated from The Forge, with more than 500 employees hired and $30 million of private and public investment raised—a positive and welcome ripple effect for the area. And with dedicated support from key regional partners, Hamilton continues to foster its excellent talent pool and top-tier research and development capabilities.

The Forge's expansion further enhances McMaster's entrepreneurial ecosystem and reputation as a leader in developing assets to support innovation, in particular within MIP. As one of these key partners, FedDev Ontario has made significant investments at MIP, most notably $11.5 million in the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC), and $12 million in the Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (BEAM), demonstrating its commitment to help position Hamilton as a top research and innovation hub in Canada.

Karen Mossman, McMaster's Acting Vice-President of Research, says FedDev Ontario investments continue to impact the innovation landscape of MIP.

"Across the spectrum, from automotive and advanced manufacturing to life sciences research and entrepreneurship, these investments are allowing us to build our capacity in a number of areas," she says. "We're attracting the best students and researchers and meeting the research and development needs of our industry partners. Collectively, we're developing technologies and creating jobs to meet the local and global challenges of the future."

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FedDev Ontario investments continue to impact the innovation landscape of McMaster Innovation Park.
Karen Mossman, Acting Vice-President of Research, McMaster University