Innovation York, the innovation office for York, facilitates and champions the commercial, economic and social impacts of research and innovation at York, actively building a culture of engaged scholarship and experiential learning. It also cultivates connections with industry and non-profit partners. Its accelerator spaces, the LaunchYU BEST Hub on York's Keele Campus, YSpace Markham and the IBM Innovation Space − Markham Convergence Centre, are thriving hubs for entrepreneurs and community members.
"YSpace is a way for the university to connect with the Markham community, where a new campus is planned to open in 2021," says Robert Haché, vice-president Research & Innovation at York University. "It offers something new for downtown Markham: a large-scale co-working space combined with a maker space and facilities for events and training programs."
Sarah Howe, director of Innovation York, says entrepreneurs face many challenges. "When early-stage entrepreneurs come up with a potential solution to a burning problem, a common mistake is not talking to the future customer and getting their opinion. It's hugely important to share the idea and get feedback."
Engaging a target audience can help to inform the product or service. "It can also assure entrepreneurs that the problem they are solving is of sufficient concern that users would buy the product," says Ms. Howe.
Access to facilities to develop prototypes for their products is another common challenge. "For individuals or start-up ventures interested in commercializing a product, we have a maker space, where people can build things virtually or create them physically," Ms. Howe says.
Innovation York offers entrepreneurs and innovators an opportunity to become a part of the community at YSpace Markham, Dr. Haché explains. "A community that is supportive, that offers training programs to develop skill sets, co-working space and facilities to build prototypes and even products is essential if we are going to support entrepreneurs and give them the best opportunity for success."
Innovation York at YSpace Markham can empower students, faculty and community members who want to develop innovative ideas, learn new skills and create new ventures. The initial months of operation of YSpace Markham, which opened in 2017, have included programming like #PitchIt, Bitmaker, Ladies Learning Code and StemMinds.
In July, Innovation York at YSpace Markham welcomed 20 grade 12 students for a Youth Innovation by Design summer school course in partnership with the York Region District School Board. "Through the course, students experienced the process of developing innovative ideas and solutions," says Kathryn Wallace, interim director of education, York Region District School Board. "Collaborating with Innovation York and hosting the course at YSpace provided students with a modern and dynamic learning environment and introduced them to some of the supports available for young entrepreneurs and innovators," she adds.
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