Ontario Construction News staff writer
The City of Kitchener is partnering with the University of Waterloo to expand the UW Velocity program at the Health Sciences Campus in downtown Kitchener. For the project, a vacant 90,000 square foot on-campus building will be repurposed as an innovation arena that will be an entrepreneurial hub for innovative health technology.
“In 2016, we invested in the UW Velocity program to expand their space and ability to support our growing health technology start-ups and scaleup ecosystem,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.
“The results have been amazing and have created new local businesses and jobs, expanding the local ecosystem, while also encouraging millions of dollars in private sector investments. The current pandemic has brought this sector to the forefront, and we’re excited to now be able to be a part of an even bigger expansion which will allow us to build back better as we recover in a post-Covid-19 world.”
The expanded UW Velocity program will focus on creating a one-of-a-kind environment for health technology start-ups and scale-ups, giving them access to an ecosystem of experienced mentors and physical resources. It will increase companies’ abilities to grow in Canada, increasing their impacts on the Canadian healthcare system and our economy.
It is expected that the expanded program will create 75 new high growth med-tech start-ups and 50 health tech scale-ups, which will combine to create over 800 highly skilled jobs and encourage $95 million in private sector investments.
“This expansion will reinforce Kitchener’s place among the global leaders in health innovation, an area that our community recognized as a key focus for our economic strategy,” said Cory Bluhm, executive director, economic development for the City of Kitchener. “Entrepreneurs and creators will have access to space, and industry equipment unlike anything else around.”
The new re-purposed building will be a unique facility within North America, combining a shared wet lab, advanced biosafety labs and simulated clinical operating rooms as well as space for manufacturing equipment and collaboration.
“This opportunity to develop our Health Sciences Campus represents a significant milestone not just for the University of Waterloo and Velocity, but for the city and region,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “Together, we are expanding our contribution to one of the global economy’s most important sectors. And together, our citizens stand to benefit as well from emerging health innovations.
The capital costs of the new space are expected to be $35 million. The City of Kitchener has committed to investing up to $8.5 million, the University of Waterloo investing $11.5 million, and further financial support will be required from other levels of government.
Approximately 5,000 sq. ft within the new space will be devoted to the City of Kitchener for health innovation programming and collaboration through the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre.