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Staying Innovative and Interactive
at the Generator at One

In 2016, we celebrated the sixth anniversary of the Generator at one. While that might suggest we have our recipe for success down pat by now, the nature of the Interactive Digital Media industry is such that a leading-edge product launched today is old news by the end of the week. Adaptation and progression are a necessity; we must continually learn and apply new knowledge to adjust our programming and operations, staying ahead of the curve and paving the way for future advancements.

Status quo and innovation are like oil and water. Thus, while the Generator at one has been around for six years, we saw several firsts in 2016 that will continue to create a robust ecosystem that cultivates world-class talent.

In 2016 we welcomed our first two portfolio companies via the Start-Up Visa (SUV) program. The SUV program is designed to attract global talent to Canada. As a designated incubator, we can support companies wishing to apply under the program if the applicant’s business venture meets all of the eligibility requirements of Canada’s Start-Up Visa program and meets the portfolio company requirements of the Generator at one. Any company entering the Generator at one must be approved by the Generator at one Advisory Panel, which is made up of public and private digital media professionals. In addition, the applicant must own the Intellectual Property for their product, and their business venture must be in the growth stage with a minimum of $150,000 CAD in revenue in the past two years.

In the first quarter of 2016, analytics startup rel8ed.to joined the Generator at one via their SUV application from the United States. rel8ed.to has grown rapidly, hiring local talent and doubling their office space within six months of launching. In Q3, we welcomed Black Wings Effects via Malaysia. Black Wings Effects is a visual effects company that has worked with some of Asia’s industry giants. Now in Canada, Black Wings Effects is bringing that business to Niagara.

Since inception, we’ve had strong partnerships with both of Niagara’s post secondary institutions: Brock University and Niagara College (NC). Six years later we continue this partnership, teaching courses out of our facility and dedicating physical office space to advance interactive digital media (IDM) at Brock and NC. In 2016, we worked with Brock and NC to adapt their spaces at the Generator to be more student focused, helping to cultivate the future of IDM talent in Niagara. Brock’s space – now called “The Grid” – is home to student interns from the Interactive Arts and Science program, allowing them side-by-side access to learn, grow and be mentored by the portfolio companies of the Generator at one. The Niagara College space, now called “The Niagara College IDM Lab”, is administered by ncTakeOff (NC’s student entrepreneurship hub) and gives the college’s top student IDM entrepreneurs access to the resources needed to help their IDM businesses start, grow and succeed.

We also opened a new space within the Generator at one, called the Corporate Innovation Corner. Following the lead and best practices of some of the world’s leading incubation and innovation centers, our Corporate Innovation Corner provides a collision point between large corporations and startups. The space allows our corporate partners to be on the ground floor of innovation, outside of corporate walls, amongst startups who are constantly creating and putting the newest technologies into practice. This marriage provides valuable opportunities for our startups and allows our corporate partners to be more in-tune with the world of startup innovation creating ample opportunity for collaboration.

In Q4 we introduced a new concept at the Generator at one called “Harvest”. We are on the lookout for both startups and existing businesses that have digital technologies that will revolutionize the wine, brewing, distilling and agri-food industries. Being in Niagara’s largest wine region, and with our growing brewing and distilling scene, Niagara is Canada’s optimal location for direct industry access pertaining to these industries. Pair that with the groundbreaking research coming from Niagara College, Brock University, and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, all within a short drive of our facility, and we are very excited to see the seeds planted in late 2016 come to fruition.

As we constantly move forward, it’s been fun looking back at the strides made in 2016 to ensure our future success. Knowing many of the developments in store from both the Generator at one and our portfolio companies, be assured that once again, the very best is yet to come!

Steve Boese
Manager, the Generator at one

Innovate is sponsoring our Founder's participation in the Startup Visa programme. Without this support, the business would not be possible. Moving past that, the availability of the staff and the solid engagement across funding, idea generation, research, and customer opportunity acquisition really helped us get started.”rel8ed.to Analytics

2016 Portfolio Company Success Stories

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Brock Interactive Arts and Science | The Grid

Principle/Founder name(s)

Centre for Digital Humanities, Brock University

Year founded

2010

Business description

The Grid is Brock University’s dedicated production, education and research space at the Generator at one that fosters the Centre for Digital Humanities (CDH) degree programs and community initiatives. Used for classes, promotional events and ongoing development of student and faculty projects, the Grid is a valued resource for the CDH.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Brock University’s Strategic Mandate Agreement underscores our commitment to transdisciplinary pursuits, community partnerships and the enhancement of local technological and economical development.

As a Platinum partner, Innovate Niagara has been instrumental in supporting these mandates. Not only has it greatly facilitated and supported instructional partnerships between industry professionals teaching Brock courses at The Grid, it has provided a unique experiential education opportunity for Brock's CDH students, facilitating their onsite internship experiences alongside professionals and training with industry technology as part of the students' degree programs. Whether by giving students the chance to mingle at Digital Media Mashups, promoting projects with industry professionals for feedback, internship opportunities or classes taught in the Grid environment itself, Innovate Niagara keeps Brock connected to its valued community partners.

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Creative Bytes Studios

Principle/Founder name(s)

Paul Caporicci, Chief Executive Officer

Shawn Jackson, Chief Creative Officer

Year founded

2013

Business description

Creative Bytes Studios is an interactive technology company that specializes in developing rich and engaging digital experiences. We provide game developers with multi-platform art, code and design services, develop unique interactive experiences for businesses and creates our own video games. Creative Bytes Studios has a proven track record, the required in-house expertise and a customer focused approach that is flexible to meet the unique demands of any project and budget.

Milestones/Successes to date

Creative Bytes Studios has assisted both successful independent game developers and major AAA publishers with bringing their games to market. In 2016, Creative Bytes Studios has applied that experience to their own debut game set to release next year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The game is made with Unity and produced with the financial support of Canada Media Fund and Ontario Media Development Corporation.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Innovate Niagara was critical to the success of our applications for production funding with Canada Media Fund and Ontario Media Development Corporation. Innovate Niagara was able to provide insight into how to best prepare and answer questions based on their experience of helping other companies with successful applications.

Being an entrepreneur means...

Running our own business gives us the freedom to choose paths that we are truly passionate about. Along with the privilege of being an entrepreneur, it carries the responsibility to create and sustain jobs. Being owners of a company gives us the opportunity to become a supportive partner with the community.

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Fourgrounds Media Inc.

Principle/Founder name(s)

Adrian Thiessen and Kristen Nater

Year founded

2008

Business description

Film and Commercial Production.

“The idea is everything” Fourgrounds is a video and film production company located in Niagara, Canada. Our inspired creative team of filmmakers and editors have a passion for creating engaging content for any platform.

Milestones/Successes to date

International awards for both Film and Commercials

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Networking, portfolio references and community development have all been integral to our Niagara related business.

Being an entrepreneur means...

Doing what you want to do and making it work.

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Image Propeller Studios

Principle/Founder name(s)

Sandra Tournemille

Business description

Image Propeller is a small, independent studio run by Sandra Tournemille. We help intelligent professionals, scientists, event planners and businesses of all sizes explain their complex and data-driven messages with animation and illustration.

Milestones/Successes to date

Winner of CIHR's IHDCYH contest. The CHILD Study video won first place and a $5000 award in the CIHR's “IHDCYH Talks” video competition. Based on the criteria "Impact & Relevance", "Accessibility", "Innovation & Creativity", "Video Quality" and "Reach", the competition judges awarded the CHILD video an average score of 4.45/5. The video also received the highest number of online votes.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Offering business and networking support early on in business development.

Being an entrepreneur means...

Carving a unique path in life driven by creativity and curiosity. It means being brave, persistent and diligent. Having the audacity to stick with an idea and see it through to completion.

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morro images

Principle/Founder name(s)

Tobias Wiegand

Business description

morro images Canada specializes in 3D animation and product development, utilizing cutting edge technologies such as motion capture, 3D scanning and 3D printing.

Milestones/Successes to date

For our work, we have won several awards in both the entertainment and product design sectors.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

morro images Canada has been part of the Innovate Niagara family almost from its inception, going through the planning and creation of the Generator at one, as well as being a technology partner. The access to advanced technologies provided by the Generator at one as well as the networking facilitated by Innovate Niagara have been very important contributors to our business success.

Being an entrepreneur means...

Constantly thinking outside the box while continuously pushing the boundaries of creativity and technology.

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ncTakeOff Interactive Digital Media Lab

Principle/Founder name(s)

Niagara College

Business description

ncTakeOff is Niagara College’s hub for entrepreneurship. By exposing NC students to the concept of entrepreneurship, we’re building an innovative, enterprising and challenge-embracing culture across campus, in Niagara and beyond.

Milestones/Successes to date

In July, the construction of the new Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Niagara College Welland campus provided a 700-sq ft Makerspace for student entrepreneurs in the ‘proof of concept’ phase. Students who need space, power tools, or 3D printers to make and store their inventions/innovations now use this on-campus, ‘garage-like’ facility to tinker and prototype.

We also partnered with the Generator at one to create the ncTakeOff Interactive Digital Media Lab – a space where student entrepreneurs with IDM startups can occupy, rent-free, and access Innovate Niagara resources including equipment, mentors and business development services.

In March, we launched Pitch Perfect: a pitch competition for early-stage student-led companies where the grand prize winner, Aerial Smart Survey Solutions, took home $1000 in cash and $3000 in marketing services.

On-campus and across the region, we hosted Entrepreneurship Week, in March, which featured guest speakers, entrepreneurship service providers, and a showcase of some of the 62 student companies now in our network.

We also hosted many business development workshops and events alongside our community partners, including the first Niagara Social Enterprise Forum, in January, and Niagara’s Young Entrepreneur Kick-Off Weekend, a Startup Weekend co-hosted at Brock University in November.

Funding to support our Niagara On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities projects (Niagara College’s ncTakeOff and BioLinc’s Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship Program) was renewed and will carry us through until at least March 2018.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

We have received two main benefits as partners with Innovate Niagara. First, we have benefited from being in the same space as the other creative and entrepreneurial types as residents of the Generator at one. Second, as strategic partners with Innovate Niagara, we are focused on offering innovative solutions of varying kinds for the small- and medium-sized businesses who make up our amazing region. As such, we have received referrals from Innovate Niagara for potential industry partners, and we have likewise provided referrals to offer the most well-rounded experience to our clients. 

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Niagara College Research & Innovation

Principle/Founder name(s)

Niagara College

Business description

Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division provides real-world solutions for business, industry and the community through applied research and knowledge transfer activities.

Thanks to funding from regional, provincial and federal agencies, teams of students and expert faculty conduct projects that provide innovative solutions in advanced manufacturing, agriculture and the environment, food and beverage innovation, and commercialization solutions, including digital media, web and business solutions. Projects can include producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products or processes for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Milestones/Successes to date

In the past year, the Research & Innovation division of Niagara College provided applied research experiences to 1,847 students and 91 researchers (including faculty and recent graduates), in 44 programs, while working on 168 projects for a variety of industry partners. We also celebrated the groundbreaking of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, a 15,000 square-foot building expected to open in the summer of 2016.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

We have received two main benefits as partners with Innovate Niagara. First, we have benefited from being in the same space as the other creative and entrepreneurial types as residents of the Generator at One. Second, as strategic partners with Innovate Niagara, we are focused on offering innovative solutions of varying kinds for the small- and medium-sized businesses who make up our amazing region. As such, we have received referrals from Innovate Niagara for potential industry partners, and we have likewise provided referrals to offer the most well-rounded experience to our clients. We have successfully utilized our space to incubate start-up companies – such as HiPO Visualization and Manic North – developed from related project work with NC’s Research & Innovation.

Being an entrepreneur means...

Being an entrepreneur can often mean having the vision, but not necessarily the equipment and expertise to grow and take that leap forward in the marketplace. Through our specializations, the Research & Innovation division of Niagara College can provide access to R&D and business services that small- and medium-sized entrepreneurial companies might not otherwise be able to access.

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Phantom Compass

Principle/Founder name(s)

Tony Walsh, Jos Yule, Ericka Evans

Business description

We’re game makers, well-travelled trailblazers, and pathfinders. We guide brands and agencies to new ground in the world of surprise and delight.
Phantom Compass has been providing full game development services and creating spirited and adventurous original games since 2008. We are staffed by industry veterans working in Unity 3d (C#) and Phaser (HTML5) to reach PC, virtual reality, mobile, tablet, console and handheld platforms.

With extensive expertise and industry experience, we captain our clients through the challenging world of video game development, creating a trusting and rewarding client-developer journey. As an experienced, boutique organization, our clients work directly with senior team members to reach their destination.

Milestones/Successes to date

In 2016 we delved deep into a new branch of interactive design working with the cutting edge VR technology. This VR work included an intensive period of research and development and human testing with our research partners at Ryerson’s Re/Lab. We now build VR entertainment, business and marketing solutions to immerse audiences in bold new ways. You dream it and we make it.

“Rollers of the Realm,” our first original game to hit world wide commercial distribution, turned 2 years old this fall. It’s quirky combination of traditional role-playing game (RPG) elements and classic pinball, has proven its staying power and maintains an average of 80-90% approval rating with players on all platforms.

“Auto Age: Standoff” our second original game title, is in a public Beta stage on Steam, the world’s largest PC games distribution platform. The game will launch officially in 2017.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Innovate Niagara was instrumental in helping us organize and host our first-ever business focused event where we showcased our VR technology for approximately 20 local and Southern Ontario businesses.

Sharing industry knowledge and making connections that have brought attention to our brand, services and products.

Being an entrepreneur means...

...hiring people smarter than you.

Niagara College Connects Industry With Innovation

In 2016, Niagara College opened the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, a 15,000 square-foot lab at the Welland Campus, with specialized equipment and resources. Small- and medium-sized businesses with needs in additive manufacturing (3D printing) and reality capture (3D scanning); mechanical design; physical simulations; lean manufacturing or process improvement, work with the college's expert faculty, researchers and students to solve industry challenges. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the Centre worked with 42 companies on 62 technical services; and completed 11 applied research projects while employing 13 students from three of the college's technology programs.

In the spring of 2016, Niagara College was awarded a Technology Access Centre (TAC) grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), for the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre. Located at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, the Centre team offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes in the food and beverage sector. From new recipe development to shelf-life testing and nutritional labelling, the CFWI Innovation Centre pairs industry partners with faculty, recent graduates and students to meet industry needs.

For Niagara College, 2016 ended on a high note with the announcement from FedDev Ontario that the federal government has invested $7.3 million in a partnership, led by Niagara College, to help SMEs in the Golden Horseshoe de-risk and adapt technology faster. The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) includes McMaster University, and Mohawk and Sheridan colleges. SONAMI will offer a “single-window” approach to supporting manufacturers’ research and development needs, encouraging them to adopt and integrate disruptive advanced manufacturing technologies into their operations with the help of the network.

For much more news, profiles and videos on the work of Niagara College's Research & Innovation division, visit www.ncinnovation.ca