McMaster’s tech start-up incubator to expand with over $1 million in federal funding

Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas MP Filomena Tassi announced that $1.2 million will be given to McMaster University's start-up incubator to expand into the empty parking garage at McMaster Innovation Park. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

An empty parking garage at McMaster Innovation Park is getting a makeover to help local entrepreneurs, thanks to an investment from the federal government.

Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas MP Filomena Tassi says FedDev Ontario is giving McMaster University $1.2 million to transform the garage into a makerspace for The Forge, McMaster’s start-up incubator.

Tassi made the announcement in the empty parking garage on Friday morning on behalf of Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains.

“The Forge has a very compact space, which includes a 3D printer, laser cutter and other fabricating equipment. But just to be frank, the space — well, it’s just not big enough,” said Tassi. “And that is why McMaster is expanding The Forge, and the Government of Canada stands ready to be a meaningful partner in this very important expansion.”

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The funding allows The Forge, which was established by McMaster in 2014 to provide entrepreneurs and start-ups with the resources they need to get off the ground, to expand into the 10,000-square-foot space and support even more companies, from 24 up to 40 annually, and creating up to 75 new jobs.

McMaster Innovation Park CEO Ty Shattuck said the new space will triple The Forge’s space in the building.

“And really, what better place to do that than in our very own garage?” said Shattuck. “Just think of all the multi-billion-dollar companies whose humble beginnings were started in somebody’s garage. Disney, Apple, Google, to name just a few. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to create a whole new bunch of companies in our garage.”

Shattuck adds that the focus at the McMaster Innovation Park and at The Forge is to support Hamilton-area entrepreneurs.

“It’s a ‘made-in-Hamilton’ solution for building the economy of Hamilton and the community,” he said.

Matthew Sheridan, founder and CEO of Nix Sensors, was on hand to explain how McMaster’s Innovation Factory helped his company get its start in 2013 and how he’s worked alongside The Forge since its inception four years ago.

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“I can truly say that we wouldn’t be here today without their support,” said Sheridan. “They are the No. 1 reason why we continue to work here in this building and continue to invest in Hamilton.”

“I’ve been to and worked out of incubators and accelerators from Waterloo to Toronto to Silicon Valley and even Europe. And I’ve realized how fortunate we’ve been to live and work in a place with easy access to tools, technical support, mentorship, and honestly — most important to me — the never-faltering moral support to keep working your ass off, moving forward, even when goals sometimes seem impossible.”

Tassi echoed Sheridan’s sentiments, saying how important it is to support people with great ideas, no matter their age.

“So many youth have amazing ideas — this is an opportunity to take those ideas and bring them to fruition,” said Tassi. “To give the supports to both young as well as old — seniors as well. As the minister of seniors, I have an interest in that too.”

“And as a result of this, you’re going to end up with amazing contributions that are made to our communities and to our country.”

Since 2014, 105 tech companies have graduated from The Forge’s makerspace at McMaster Innovation Park, employing more than 300 people and generating $20 million in private and public investment.

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