MACcelerate, an innovation program launched by McMaster University in partnership with Communitech, has found a home at the Communitech Hub in downtown Kitchener.
“We chose to be a part of the thriving innovation ecosystem in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region, and in many ways, Communitech defines the innovation districts we aim to replicate,” McMaster President and Vice-Chancellor David Farrar said during an official opening event. “With an existing node of our MD program here and the training opportunities it offers, the real question is not why we're here, but why we didn't join sooner.”
The program links McMaster University's medical students and clinicians at the Waterloo Regional Campus (WRC) with technology and entrepreneurship resources from Communitech and the University of Waterloo to improve patient outcomes.
“We believe that by harnessing the strengths of our medical programs and UW’s engineering expertise, combined with the innovation ecosystem of Communitech, we can truly tackle health-care challenges,” Farrar said. “Together, we can achieve more than we ever could alone.”
The neighborhood at King and Victoria streets in downtown Kitchener is home to an expanding medtech and health-sciences hub. UW opened a School of Pharmacy on the corner in early 2008. At about the same time, McMaster established the Waterloo Regional Campus of its Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine in the School of Pharmacy. The northwest side of the block running from King to Joseph Street is now called the Health Sciences Campus, and UW is in the midst of turning an old warehouse on the site into an “Innovation Arena” that will house, among other things, UW’s renowned Velocity tech incubator. Communitech is located just across Victoria Street in the Tannery Building.
The MACcelerate launch event was attended by dignitaries from McMaster and UW, government representatives, media, technology experts, entrepreneurs, medical learners, WRC faculty and WRC staff. It featured guest speakers and a panel discussion.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said medical innovation thrives on collaboration.
“Our community is uniquely positioned to establish itself as a hub for health innovation in medical technology,” he said. “We can leverage our strengths in technology, data communication, manufacturing and medical devices to make a significant mark in the health-care industry.”
The panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia, Digital Health Innovation Lead for McMaster’s Waterloo Region Campus, emphasized the role of the local community, educational institutions and medical professionals in tackling health-care challenges.
Panelist Angela Larraguibel, Communitech’s Senior VP of Founder Services, said Communitech is eager to collaborate.
“We want to hear how you'd like to engage,” she said. “While we have some initial ideas, we're deeply committed to exploring what comes next. So, let's connect with those interested and collaboratively figure out how we can work closely together.”
As health-care challenges mount, innovation and collaboration are needed more than ever.
“In health-care today, sustainability is a challenge, pushing us to explore new ways, embrace innovation and empower our health-care professionals,” said panelist Catherine Burns, Associate Vice-President of Health Initiatives at the University of Waterloo. “Our vision is clear – to transform, do things better and lead the way together as a united community.”
The panel discussion was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiling the MACcelerate space in the Communitecch Hub.
The event also featured representatives from area health-tech companies Hyivy Health, Rocket Doctor, Cobionix and others.