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Hamilton-based innovation hub gets $6M from feds to develop life sciences technology

The federal government has announced a $6-million investment in a new Hamilton-based innovation hub that seeks to solve health care issues using ‘made-in-Canada’ solutions.

The funding through FedDev Ontario will help local non-profits Innovation Factory and Synapse Life Science Consortium create a network called the Southern Ontario Pharmaceutical and Health Innovation Ecosystem — or SOPHIE for short.

Mélanie Joly, Canada’s Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, said SOPHIE will create 50 new jobs and maintain another 100 jobs in the region, as well as provide support for more than 100 businesses.

“They will have access to acceleration mentorship, they will have access to capital,” said Joly during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

“They will be really nurtured by people that want to make sure that they can really create more jobs, create new products, make sure that they can achieve all of the growth goals that they’ve given themselves.”

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Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas MP and Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi said SOPHIE is a “perfect addition to the innovation ecosystem” that already exists in the city, citing work that’s already underway at Innovation Factory and the McMaster Innovation Park.

“The impact of what happens through SOPHIE will not only be felt locally, but we are going to share this across Canada and internationally, where the innovative products brought to the market through these collaborations will improve health care at a time we need it most.”

The hub will allow entrepreneurs to consult experts in Hamilton’s life sciences field to get a better idea of what will actually work best in a practical setting.

David Carter, executive director of Innovation Factory, said the funding is specifically earmarked for “commercialization of life science innovation”.

“Commercialization means these innovations become companies that create jobs,” said Carter. “And the fact that their innovations in life sciences mean they improve the quality of life. So this investment amplifies what we’ve already started here in Hamilton.”

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Partners include McMaster University, Mohawk College, Hamilton Health Sciences, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Bay Area Health Trust, McMaster Innovation Park, the City of Hamilton, and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

Carter said those organizations will use their resources and expertise to support companies in life sciences that are struggling to get off the ground.

“Imagine having this group behind you when you’re trying to launch a company. It means that I can have a hospital validate an idea from an entrepreneur and tell us whether or not that idea would actually work in a hospital environment. It means I have a group of academic institutions like Mohawk and McMaster doing research and training the next generation of innovators that are going to work in these jobs.”

Innovation Factory was established in Hamilton in 2011 and has been operating as a “business accelerator”, providing services to businesses and training and mentorship to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market, increase revenues, attract investment and create jobs.

The organization was among those that founded the Synapse Life Science Consortium in 2016, with the goal of serving as a “strategic broker for the community” to commercialize technology and innovation in health care.

Click to play video: Take a look inside Hamilton’s mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at FirstOntario Centre

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