IBM Opens Ottawa Incubator to Fuel Tech Innovation

IBM is setting up shop in Canada’s capital as part of the company’s Innovation Incubator Project.

The new Ottawa-based accelerator program was unveiled today and will help scale local startups by giving them access to IBM’s cognitive business technology, cloud-based development platform and, perhaps the most important perk, its network of customers.

The latest IBM Innovation Space in Ottawa is one of five the American company has planned in Ontario. A $47-million initiative, the incubator project is a joint partnership between the province and IBM who pooled millions in capital to help Ontario’s small and medium-sized businesses grow by fast-tracking the launch of new technologies and products.

“These kinds of collaboration spaces help entrepreneurs access expertise and advanced technologies they otherwise might not have access to, allowing our province’s innovators to test, develop and commercialize their ideas and connect to markets worldwide,” said Reza Moridi, minister of research, innovation and science in a release.

The incubator will be housed at Invest Ottawa’s Bayview Yards Innovation Centre, and the Ontario Centres of Excellence will oversee the centre’s operations.

IBM opening up a space in Ottawa is another hopeful sign that the city’s technology scene is rebounding. Canada’s capital was once referred to as Silicon Valley North, largely thanks to Nortel’s once-booming Ottawa headquarters. But the city lost that title along with thousands of technology-focused jobs when Nortel went bankrupt eight years ago.

E-commerce unicorn Shopify has helped reignite Ottawa’s position as a technology hub, along with Invest Ottawa and SaaS accelerator L-SPARK; driving the city forward as an up-and-coming hotspot for tech startups.

“Ottawa is already a leader in today’s global, knowledge-based economy, being home to one of the most educated workforces in North America,” said Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre. “IBM’s investment will provide our small- and medium-sized enterprise community access to the technology and opportunities they need to pioneer revolutionary technologies at home, and abroad.”

The IBM Innovation Incubator Project includes four other co-located innovation spaces across Ontario, including Ryerson University’s DMZ, Toronto-based MaRS Discovery District, Communitech in Waterloo and Markham’s ventureLAB. The project is expected to help Ontario startups create up to 2,600 jobs by 2020.