Kitchener-Waterloo is already well-known as a centre for innovation in Canada, and with plans now underway to revitalize a 475,000 square foot warehouse space located at 137 Glasgow Street in Kitchener’s Innovation District, the newly re-christened Catalyst137 building is set to become the largest innovation center in the world dedicated to hardware and Internet of Things companies.
The $55 million project is scheduled to open its doors in 2017, and is the brainchild of Kurtis McBride, CEO and co-founder of Miovision, and Frank Voisin of Voisin Capital, a firm that has created several high-profile projects throughout Ontario.
“Connected devices and the Internet of Things are transforming the world,” said Voisin. “Until now, there hasn’t been a single unifying place for hardware-focused companies to work together. Catalyst137 fills that need.”
Both companies will be moving their headquarters into Catalyst137 when it’s finished, with Voisin Capital handling the real estate challenges, while Miovision manages the technology ecosystem.
“Catalyst137 is going to help forward-thinking entrepreneurs and engineers transform their great ideas into successful, international businesses, just like we were able to with Miovision,” said McBride. “We’re proud to anchor the building and help build a space to help makers compete globally. Catalyst137 will make it possible for us to one day say that much of the Internet of Things industry was invented in the Waterloo Region.”
With hundreds of sensors installed in the building and the surrounding streetscape, the finished building will be endlessly hackable, providing resident companies with a real-world sandbox to accelerate the region’s growing network of IoT innovators, the most prominent of which has been Miovision, which will become the building’s anchor tenant.
“This project will have huge significance on both the local and global level,” said McBride. “Catalyst137 will transform the surrounding neighborhood, and it has the potential to transform the hardware technology industry for the region and the world.”
Located three kilometers southeast of the University of Waterloo and one kilometer west of Google’s new Kitchener headquarters, the building sits adjacent to the Iron Horse Trail pedestrian corridor and aims to revitalize the Belmont Village neighborhood, with a restaurant, bar, coffee shop and gym integrated into the project.
The team also has the support of Toronto-based real estate firm Osmington, Inc., which developed and owns the Winnipeg Jets’ MTS Centre and has led the endlessly complicated re-development of Toronto’s Union Station.
“I am continuously amazed by the brilliant innovation coming out of Kitchener-Waterloo,” said Osmington president Lawrence Zucker. “I am honored to support this project, which will help lead the world into the next generation of technology and demonstrate the amazing things Canada is capable of.”
There was a need for a space like Catalyst137, with almost two dozen hardware-focused companies graduating from the University of Waterloo’s incubator programs each year, all of which had problems finding space that met their requirements for manufacturing, with appropriate loading docks and facilities, so they ended up working outskirts of town, isolated from the energy of the urban centre’s tech ecosystem.
The new building not only brings those hardware companies closer to the networking opportunities and social life of downtown, but offers each business the opportunity to lease spaces ranging from 3,000 to 50,000 square feet, with a shared manufacturing space boasting 3D printers, laser cutters, and metalworking equipment.
“Innovation is thriving in Kitchener-Waterloo,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “Catalyst is yet another example of the community coming together to provide a place to nurture that innovation and help spread the success that so many here have experienced. There is nowhere else in the world that can match this area for the mix of resources supporting such a variety of technological advancement.”
With the incredible success of Kitchener-Waterloo as an innovation hub, the second most active behind Silicon Valley, pride of place for incubator space has usually gone to software start-ups, which have less demanding infrastructure needs than hardware-focused companies.
This new workspace and innovation center for hardware technology companies in the Waterloo region is expected to draw entrepreneurs from around the world eager to gain access not only to a state-of-the-art facility for prototyping and building new hardware technologies, but also to the K-W ecosystem and the connections that can be made in one of the most active tech hubs on the planet.