NFRIH powered by Spark

Introducing the Niagara Falls Ryerson Innovation Hub  

Building your startup in Niagara

Innovation abounds in the Niagara Region, and the opportunities have not ceased in the advent of COVID-19. Now is a good time to be an entrepreneur. We sat down with Spark Niagara and the Niagara Falls Ryerson Innovation Hub to find out more.

Q: Can you give us a little background on Spark Niagara and what it brings to Niagara?

A: Spark is a collaborative workplace community for today’s entrepreneurial workforce.  We provide a space where start-ups and established businesses can locate with the support necessary to grow. What’s unique about us is that we strive to create a centre where business, education and local government join into an interactive knowledge community. One that not only highlights Niagara’s talent, but also uncovers business opportunities that help our city retain and attract youth and talent, produce our own skilled workforce, and solve local challenges through technological innovation. Since opening our doors in 2018, we have incubated over 80 startups and host 40 startups actively within our space. 

Q: We have heard a lot of good things about Spark Niagara and the Niagara Falls Ryerson Innovation Hub. Can you highlight the difference between Spark Niagara and the Niagara Falls Ryerson Innovation Hub (NFRIH) and how they work together?

A: Spark Niagara is a collaborative coworking space for companies from a variety of sectors, and phases of their lifecycle to join and foster innovation. The Niagara Falls Ryerson Innovation Hub is a curated cohort-based program created by the City of Niagara Falls, Ryerson University, and Spark Niagara targeted at growing and scaling digital media and innovative tech-based startups. The NFRIH is a program to incubate businesses with specific programming over a defined period of time with a thorough application process; while Spark Niagara acts as a coworking space where businesses can rent space either short term or long-term.

Q: The Niagara Falls Ryerson Innovation Hub sounds interesting, can you dive a bit deeper into what the program entails?

A: The NFRIH is a highly curated program for entrepreneurs, focused on growing digital products and services for startups in Niagara Falls. The four-month program, leveraging the expertise and programming from the DMZ at Ryerson University, provides startups with access to hands-on advice from experienced leading industry experts and entrepreneurs-in-residence (EiRs) who have done it all before, access to exclusive workshops and events, connections to Ryerson’s research and development ecosystem, connections to international markets, and the resources needed to take their business to the next level. 

Currently, in our second cohort, the NFRIH runs three cohorts each year and is accepting applications for cohort 3 which will start in September of 2020. Our programming continues to run virtually to deliver value to the startups in the NFRIH program in the wake of COVID. The value and offering to our startups has been uninterrupted. 

Q: So you are on your second cohort now for the Niagara Falls Ryerson Innovation Hub, do you have any success stories from your first cohort?

A: A notable cohort 1 startup is BISEP, a MedTech company founded by Dan Bordenave, that uses innovative technology to rehabilitate patients with brain trauma. BISEP placed first in the AgeWell Healthcare Technology pitch competition, securing funding and in kind services. Beyond his core business activities, Dan is using the excess capacity of his 3D printers to create reusable face shields for frontline workers during COVID-19. 

Get Ready, an emergency-preparedness startup rolled out their Return to Work program, which is helping businesses across Canada create policies, plans and strategies to adapt their businesses to new standards set by Public Health to re-open after COVID-19.

Q: Do you have to be a young entrepreneur to be involved in the NFRIH?

A: We welcome entrepreneurs of all ages to the NFRIH.  Anyone can be an entrepreneur.  We are however running a Niagara-specific summer program called Basecamp extended by Ryerson’s DMZ for entrepreneurs in high school and post-secondary. This is an intensive program that helps youth bring their business ideas to market taking place from July 6th to August 27th, where they’ll spend 20-25 hours per week participating in virtual webinars, receiving business coaching, and working on launching their business. 

Q: How do we get involved in the NFRIH?

A: To apply your startup to the NFRIH program, or find out more, visit our website at www.niagarafallsryersonhub.ca. In the meantime, you can join us for FIKA Fridays at 10:30am every Friday we connect with the Niagara ecosystem virtual networking. It’s a great opportunity to learn about what other startups are working on during COVID-19 and how you can collaborate. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and contact us at nfrih@sparkniagara.com for any questions or to discuss the program further. 

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