Big Plan on Campus: How Empowered Startups’ Collaborations with Canadian Universities Are Shaping the Future of Technology 

As Canada attempts to position itself as a world leader in innovation and ensure solid prospects for future…

Student engineers innovating

As Canada attempts to position itself as a world leader in innovation and ensure solid prospects for future economic growth, research partnerships between startups and Canadian universities are a vital part of the equation. These partnerships have mutual benefits; they support the successful commercialization of technologies for startups while providing a real-world testing ground, critical funding, and job opportunities for universities and researchers. Empowered Startups has committed to facilitating these collaborations through its Canada Start-up Visa (SUV) Program. Even more important than Empowered’s recent passing of $1 million in funding of R&D at Canadian universities through its SUV Program is the exchange of ideas, resources, and expertise that takes place in these partnerships to drive research and innovation forward in Canada. 

“We firmly believe that research and innovation are essential ingredients for Canada and its citizens to prosper, which is why we created a model to support both our founders and Canadian universities in their collective pursuits of state-of-the-art advancements in various disciplines,” explained Paul Girodo, Co-Founder of Empowered Startups. “While I’m tremendously proud to crest the million-dollar mark in direct funding of R&D at Canadian universities, I’m even more invigorated by the fact that the benefits of these investments extend far beyond the specific endeavours they finance.” 

Startups provide university labs with a real-world testing ground for research and training opportunities 

With their world-class research labs and renowned scientists and engineers, Canadian universities offer a fertile ground for developing the next generation of innovative minds and technologies. However, professional researchers and students need practical applications for their research to maximize their abilities and impact on society. Beyond the real-world implementation of their research and invaluable experience from such collaborations with industry, students gain essential contacts that often lead to future employment opportunities. 

Dr. Shehroz Khan, a leading researcher in digital health AI at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, stated on the research project between the Institute and Empowered-incubated startup Wellspring Data that “This project is a perfect example of how the collaboration between academia and industry enables research to be taken from the lab to real-world settings. It is an incredible opportunity for students to be trained under industry and academic mentorship and develop skills to be successful in their careers.” 

Dr. Parminder Singh Kang, Associate Professor at MacEwan University, echoes the same sentiments about their research project with Empowered-incubated startup Apana. “This collaboration fosters a dynamic learning environment where interns can tap into the collective expertise of industry partners, test-bed organizations, and academic supervision while providing students insight into best practices and real-world applications. The mentorship they receive enhances their technical abilities and provides valuable guidance in research methodologies, experimental design, and project management.” 

When asked about research partnerships facilitated by Empowered Startups, Dr. Mehrdad Moallem, Professor, School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering at Simon Fraser University, stated, “The collaboration with startups has provided valuable training opportunities for graduate students and other researchers involved in our program. Engaging in novel and captivating projects driven by entrepreneurs has enhanced their skill sets and sparked their enthusiasm for innovation and creativity.” 

Access to world-class researchers and resources at a fraction of the cost enables startups to focus capital on technology and hiring 

Collaborating with university research labs is particularly valuable for startups aiming to innovate and establish themselves in competitive markets. It provides cost-effective access to top-tier researchers and academic expertise that drives innovation and facilitates identifying and recruiting new talent. 

“Through our project with the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, we work with world-class researchers at the forefront of their field,” asserted Kin Man Tung, CEO of Wellspring Data. “We access expert insights and the latest research findings that will significantly enhance our technology development efforts.” 

Universities provide startups with access to essential infrastructure, equipment, and human resources at a fraction of the cost of in-house development, enabling them to extend their R&D budgets and expedite their technology development efforts. “For a startup developing hardware, such as HUMUZ, the costs to build and maintain equipment to develop and test the product are extremely prohibitive,” explained HUMUZ CEO Brian Fung. “By working with the University of Alberta and St. Francis Xavier University, we can access the necessary infrastructure, equipment, and human resources at a fraction of the cost required. This enables us to put our capital into building a great product and team.” 

Justin Vu explains his experience with Empowered Startups

Other startups benefit from these relationships by identifying and recruiting new talent. “We used research partnerships with two universities to get direct access to a pool of talented students,” explains Justin Vu, Founder and CEO of MED-iBOX Solutions Inc. “We were able to build a diverse team with a well-rounded skill set that led our industry engagement and fed into the development of our launch product.” 

Empowered Startups is dedicated to nurturing these symbiotic relationships, recognizing that the fusion of academic research and entrepreneurial endeavour is vital to fostering innovation that can address global challenges. This approach supports the growth of startups, the advancement of university research, and contributes to strengthening Canada’s position as a leader in technology and innovation.