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I-CUBE, on-campus accelerator for student entrepreneurs, officially opens at UTM

Nicolle Wahl

I-CUBE, a new accelerator designed to help student entrepreneurs take a new product or process to market, opened today at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

The accelerator, housed within the Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI) in the Innovation Complex, was established with $110,000 of U of T’s $3 million in funding from the Government of Ontario through Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), a member of Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE).

“At U of T Mississauga, we are committed to creating a culture of innovation, and I-CUBE offers our student entrepreneurs the chance to brainstorm, develop viable concepts and proceed through the early stages of commercialization,” says Professor Deep Saini, vice-president of U of T and principal of U of T Mississauga. “Our students will benefit from the expertise of faculty, alumni and local industry as they learn life-long skills and develop their potential to be the next global innovation leaders.”

I-CUBE will offer early-stage business development and commercialization services, in the form of a physical space where innovative students and community partners engage in entrepreneurial activities. “Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit among students is a key component of Ontario’s Youth Jobs Strategy, through programs that help transfer their ideas and skills to the marketplace while creating rewarding careers,” says Reza Moridi, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, and minister of research and innovation. “By partnering with colleges and universities to support entrepreneurship, we are ensuring our province’s business leaders of tomorrow are getting the support they need to succeed today.”

At I-CUBE, students can apply to work on their concept at the accelerator, and will have their ideas assessed by local business and innovation leaders, and alumni.

“Ontario Centres of Excellence is pleased to be able to deliver this project as a trusted partner of the Government of Ontario,” says Tom Corr, president and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence. “I look forward to putting our years of experience in connecting academia and industry, and our on-going support of young entrepreneurs to good use in making this initiative a tremendous success.” Announced by the government of Ontario in 2013, the Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLAs) and On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEAs) form an integral part of Ontario’s Youth Jobs strategy.

Professor Nicola Lacetera is a specialist in strategic management and the I-CUBE’s faculty lead. “Research tells us that new businesses are one of the major sources of new job creation and of many of the innovations we see that make our lives better,” says Lacetera. “This is important for society, for Ontario and for Canada.”

Teams with an idea deemed to have potential will have access to an entrepreneur-in-residence, IMI faculty, programming designed especially to assist them in developing their ideas and volunteer mentors from the Mississauga business community. Students will receive guidance about creating a business plan, developing a prototype and sourcing funding options.

“The future growth of business in Ontario, and right here in Mississauga is dependent on new, innovative entrepreneurs”, says Harinder Takhar, MPP for Mississauga-Erindale, who previously headed the Ontario Ministry of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurship is a driving force for the economy and making these investments in our youth, and their new ideas, makes sense in every region of our great province.”

Hazem Danny Al Nakib is a fourth-year business management specialist who is the student director and president of I-CUBE.

“The accelerator is a partnership between faculty, staff and students,” Al Nakib says.  “This collaboration remains one of I-CUBE’s major strengths in delivering the right direction and guidance for student entrepreneurial affairs, business development and experiential learning. We plan to provide outstanding service to students and hands-on learning to equip them to be future industry and community leaders.”

Pam Banks, executive director of the Mississauga-based Research, Innovation, Commercialization Centre, anticipates that the accelerator teams will approach her organization once their businesses move closer to commercialization. “It’s really important that we have a strong connection with academic partners,” says Banks. “University leaders provide new ideas and concepts to students, who are open receptors and may combine information in ways we haven’t thought of before.”

Nicolle Wahl
Assistant Director, Communications (Digital)
U of T Mississauga