Building an innovation district – a key element to Brampton’s economic growth

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2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, and Brampton is no exception. The impact on many segments of our business community has been devastating. 

As we look toward economic recovery for our City, we will sharpen our focus on four cornerstones to move us forward: Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship; Investment; Infrastructure; and Arts, Culture and Tourism.  

Seeking investment in our City is always a priority, and now it is more important than ever. In 2019, we kick-started our Foreign Direct Investment strategy with successful missions to Boston, Portugal, and Spain. Early in 2020, we added India to our list, making many contacts and generating leads. Of course, 2020 had different plans for all of us, and since March, we have been largely focused on supporting our community and businesses in dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. Clearly, our plans for our international FDI missions have been modified. Moving forward, we will advance our FDI efforts by continuing to build relationships with the contacts we have made, conducting virtual missions this year, and sharpening our focus on working with our existing businesses to support and retain them and, where opportunities are available, help them expand.

Prioritizing Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship is a key cornerstone in Brampton’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Strategy. This cornerstone outlines how we will drive growth in innovation and technology start-ups and corporates, while promoting digital transformation among existing businesses and putting the necessary resources in place to nurture entrepreneurship. 

Many technology companies and start-ups have found ways to pivot and gain momentum through the economic downturn produced by COVID-19, and Brampton is well positioned to accelerate these companies from ideation all the way to success. We will do this by supporting companies across all sectors and sizes of business in their recovery strategies, and by investing in and nurturing the growth of the up-and-coming Brampton Innovation District. The District will develop into an ecosystem with resources for companies in all stages including startup, scale-up, small and medium-sized enterprises, and large corporates. Positioned to be a key player in the innovation space with its location in the middle of Canada’s Innovation Corridor, downtown Brampton’s Innovation District will fully adopt an innovation and technology transformation and capitalize on entrepreneurship

As Canada’s youngest and second fastest growing city, Brampton has many benefits to offer companies in the Innovation and Technology sector. Brampton’s diverse workforce represents over 230 different cultures speaking 115 languages. Brampton has the lowest average age in Canada (36 years) and we have access to a highly skilled talent pool of 4.3 million across the GTA.  

Who Is Part of Brampton’s Innovation District? 

A number of entrepreneurial and innovation spaces are currently part of downtown Brampton’s Innovation District. More will join as we continue to build a robust District which will support businesses and entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey by offering a range of solutions and support to the local entrepreneur community. 

Currently, partners in downtown Brampton’s Innovation District include:

  • Brampton Entrepreneur Centre (BEC) – provides a spacious storefront co-working space designed to fuel creativity and productivity, completely free to Brampton entrepreneurs and innovators. BEC hosts frequent seminars and sessions with business advisors. Since BEC has opened over 400 entrepreneurs have subscribed to use the services and space. Although BEC’s physical location is currently closed due to COVID-19, staff have continued to work with Brampton businesses remotely throughout the pandemic and provide ongoing support and a variety of webinars to support businesses. 
  • Research Innovation Commercialization (RIC) CENTRE. The recent relocation of the RIC Centre to downtown Brampton is a critical addition to Brampton’s Innovation District and the development of its ecosystem. The RIC Centre is a “scale-up” organization to help entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. The RIC Centre is located directly across the street from the Brampton Entrepreneur Centre. 

“We are thrilled to be moving to Brampton. We have built an excellent relationship with Brampton in our work with them over the past few years, and we are excited about our many new opportunities as we get established in our new location. Downtown Brampton has a great energy – a heartbeat – and we are excited to become a part of the innovation ecosystem that is thriving there.” Pam Banks, Executive Director, RIC Centre. 

  • Ryerson Venture Zone – Recently launched in the Innovation District, the Ryerson Venture Zone will aid in the development of high potential scalable businesses in Brampton. The Ryerson Venture Zone is modelled after and integrated with Ryerson University’s world recognized Zone network. It is designed to bring people together to brainstorm, kick-start projects, and help take start-ups from early-stage incubated companies to established thriving businesses. 
  • Founder Institute in Brampton is a world premier idea-stage accelerator that aims to empower early-stage entrepreneurs to launch global companies by providing expert mentorship, a global network of resources and a curated program through a partnership with Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst and the City of Brampton.
  • The Brampton Board of Trade and the Downtown Brampton BIA are also key partners in the Innovation District.

Setting Brampton’s Innovation District apart – A focus on Cybersecurity 

“Brampton is a vital centre for innovation, with a rich and diverse pool of talent. That is why we chose Brampton ’s Innovation District as the home of the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst. We are grateful for the city’s support and proud to call it home. It’s been a pleasure to work closely with Brampton ’s business community, academic institutions and residents to make the city a key Canadian hub for cybersecurity innovation and collaboration.” Charles Finlay, Executive Director, Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, Ryerson University’s National Centre for Cybersecurity.

In an increasingly complex digital world, cybersecurity is more important than ever. 

As Brampton sets up an Innovation District to support entrepreneurs and businesses in every stage of their journey, we have one important and unique element which sets us apart; our focus on cybersecurity. With key partners providing cybersecurity training and support in our Innovation District, we are moving towards becoming a hub of cybersecurity in Canada.

Located in the heart of the Innovation District, the Rogers Cyber Secure Catalyst, led by Ryerson University, helps local and international companies seize the opportunities and tackle the challenges of cybersecurity, collaborating with industry, governments and academic partners. This not-for-profit organization is owned and operated by Ryerson University and offers training and certification, support for cyber scale-ups, applied R & D and more. 

In addition to the Catalyst, we’ve also fortunate to have the Rogers Cyber Secure Catalyst Cyber Range and Accelerator offering their important support and training in our Innovation District. The Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, in partnership with the world renowned Ryerson DMZ Accelerator, has launched the first cybersecurity accelerator of its kind in Canada. This one-of-a-kind Cyber Range and Accelerator will deliver cutting edge, interactive cybersecurity training for those entering or looking to expand in the cyber field. The multi-disciplinary and interactive environment will provide training, growth strategies, mentorship and resources to support the most promising cybersecurity scale-ups and help them succeed nationally and internationally. The accelerator also features a “Corporates-in-Residence” program where companies including Rogers, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and Amazon mentor companies at the Catalyst Cyber Accelerator. The scale-ups also have access to over $500,000 worth of exclusive business services and perks provided by over 60 globally recognized businesses. The accelerator, in conjunction with the other cornerstones of the Rogers Cyber Secure Catalyst including Canada’s first Cyber Range, Cyber security training and research and development are all positioning Brampton to become Canada’s next national hub for Cyber Security. 

A Focus on the Future – Developing our Talent 

Over the last two years, education and training opportunities in Brampton’s downtown core have significantly increased. From Ryerson University – Chang School of Continuing Education and Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst to Sheridan College and Algoma University, the Innovation District is a destination for learning at all levels. 

In addition to welcoming and working with the key partners in the Innovation District, Brampton is working on plan for a more modern and innovative approach to postsecondary education. Our aim is to create a locally tailored solution that offers leading undergraduate and graduate degrees in key areas that align with the in-demand skills of the future. We want to develop and retain our home-grown talent right here in Brampton. The City of Brampton is eager to submit our proposal to the Province and continue working with our local Members of provincial Parliament and the provincial government to make Brampton U a reality. 

What’s Next for Brampton

We are putting the pieces in place to continue to grow and evolve our Innovation District. We are eager to welcome local entrepreneurs and businesses, students and investors, and keep the momentum going. 

Patrick Brown is the Mayor of City of Brampton ( www.brampton.ca)

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