At McMaster Engineering, we believe that our mission is to educate engaged citizen scholars who will transform our world.
Helping students realize their dreams of starting their own companies is one of our primary goals.
With the support of key partners, we are seeing the number of student-born start up companies continue to grow. In 2016, one third of the 27 companies housed in The Forge, McMaster University’s start-up incubator, were engineering students.
We have fostered key relationships with our alumni in Silicon Valley and have hosted several events in support of bringing innovative ideas to light.
Certainly, McMaster Engineering has always been at the forefront of innovation. A decade ago, the Faculty established the Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology to offer interdisciplinary graduate education through experiential learning, mentorship and real-world applications.
But to truly foster a culture of entrepreneurship that rivals Silicon Valley, the Faculty knows we need to offer resources to students from the very start of their post-secondary path: entrepreneurship courses, extracurricular activities, shared workspaces, funding and mentorship into the undergrad experience.
Information Box Group
The entrepreneurship ecosystem in Hamilton comprises several organizations, each serving the needs of a segment of the community.
Forge @ Mac: Primary focus is on community building, outreach and awareness for McMaster students. Runs workshops, information sessions and pitch competitions to serve the needs of students.
Innovation Factory: Regional innovation centre. Serves the greater community through “Lunch and Learn” seminars, weekly workshops and training and its partnership with MaRS and SBEC (Small Business Enterprise Centre).
The Forge: An accelerator program serving McMaster University, Mohawk College and the greater community of Hamilton, providing startups with access to the space, network, knowledge and mentorship they require for success. Sector foci: Digital health and medical services; Digital media and software; Engineering/manufacturing.
SURGE: Serving Mohawk students. Similar to Spectrum.
Key McMaster student clubs: McMaster Entrepreneurship Association (MEA), McMaster Engineering Outreach, Phase One (focused on technology) and Social Spark McMaster (focused on entrepreneurship and social change)
Academic: Education and training offered through W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology the Engineering and Management MBA at McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business, the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization program.
Meet the McMaster Engineering student and alumni entrepreneurs who are carving deep niches, and taking their great ideas straight to the bank.
Data makes the world go ’round, and Hussam Haroun knows it. The CEO of Hamilton’s Cinnos Mission Critical Incorporated and McMaster grad (Master of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation) has spent years developing a data centre solution for businesses to better manage information.
Traditionally, data centres are built from scratch, which requires a lot of time, money and planning. But Cinnos is offering a different solution. Born from a student project with co-founder Samih Abdelgadir at the W Booth School in 2013, the Smart MC-X units are modular, customizable and pay-as-you-grow; Picture IKEA but for data centres. The first of its kind, the proprietary product is in stark contrast to the massive data centre’s most companies invest in, when they often don’t need a fraction of that space.
Cinnos shares an office with McMaster’s Computing Infrastructure Research Centre (CIRC), a research group comprised of engineers, graduate and undergraduate students. While Cinnos staff brings the business acumen, CIRC supplies the big ideas and innovative products with global appeal.
“Our lives are half digital now, so about three- to- five percent of the total energy produced worldwide goes into data centre’s,” says Suvojit Ghosh, who heads up McMaster’s CIRC, which operates alongside Cinnos. “Most of that energy ends up being wasted,” he adds. Our vision is to eliminate these wastages.”
Other Success Stories
Matt Sheridan, Nix Sensor
Alumnus Matt Sheridan’s start-up, Nix Sensor, designs and manufactures high precision colour-sensing technology that can measure the colour of any surface and provides the information to a user’s smartphone.
The device won the top prize at the September 2016 Lion’s Lair start-up business competition in Hamilton. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce named Sheridan Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2015 Ontario Business Achievement Awards. Sheridan has also earned the Ernest C. Manning Foundation’s Award of Distinction.
Sheridan credits his entrepreneurial success to mentorship he received from both the Innovation Factory and his time at McMaster managing the solar car team. “The textbook skills aren’t going to help you in the real world,” he says, “but managing people on a team, raising funds from donors, figuring out how to run marketing campaigns and working 24/7 in the basement of the engineering building are all good lessons on how entrepreneurship works.”
Healthcare Innovation in Neurotechnology (HiNT)
Healthcare Innovation in Neurotechnology (HiNT), a start up that came out of the W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology, is developing a wearable point-of-care monitoring device for patients who are at high risk of having a stroke. If a patient has a stroke during sleep, the device wakes the patient up and alerts the healthcare provider so that treatment can be administered more effectively. When a stroke occurs, a patient has a window of four and a half hours to receive treatment. But if a stroke happens in the middle of the night, there’s no way of knowing when it occurred. The result is doctors can’t properly treat their patients, and many patients are at an increased risk of experiencing a second, more debilitating stroke.
The people behind HiNT: The founders of HiNT are Ahmed Elmeligi and Jacob Jackson, Master’s of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation graduates and Nawal Behih, Master’s of Engineering Design alumna.
“The Master’s of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation program taught us the customer development model of entrepreneurship,” said Jackson. “Talk to your customers, validate your assumptions, pivot as necessary and let the market steer your course. This is the only effective way to approach entrepreneurship in the 21st century and without it you would waste a significant amount of time and money.”
Mark Pavlidis, Flixel
McMaster Engineering alumnus Mark Pavlidis is the Co-founder and CTO of the Toronto-based start-up Flixel Photos, Inc., a social network for creating photo/video hybrids the company has coined ‘cinemagraphs.’
The living picture company’s success stories range from a partnership with Facebook to create moving profile videos, announced in April, to a deal with reality TV sensation America’s Top Model and its supermodel creator, Tyra Banks, who is also a key investor. Flixel counts Nike, Kraft and Panasonic among its impressive clientele.
Pavlidis (B. Eng & Mgt, M.A.Sc., Software Engineering) leads the development of tools and distribution for the platform.
“Going through the Engineering and Management program was something I feel is fundamental to what has given me the opportunities to have these experiences and, as some would call them, successes along the way. I had a very strong and sound technical background and from the management program being able to have a very strong business background.”
Melissa Houghton, Lumago founder
Persistence and hard work continue to pay off for Lumago Inc., a student led company that emerged from McMaster Engineering’s W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology in 2015.
Lumago specializes in smart technologies for the aquaponics industry and is among a short list of 10 start ups selected to participate in the 2017 Lion’s Lair competition.
Melissa Houghton, Lumago founder and CEO and graduate of the Master of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, thinks initiatives like Lion’s Lair and the Forge Start Up competition play an important role in helping new businesses scale up and grow.
“They promote collaboration and energize the innovation community,” Houghton said.
The Makerspace at Thode Library is a joint effort between McMaster University Library and the Faculty of Engineering, providing a new interdisciplinary experiential learning space where the McMaster community can gather to create, invent and learn.
By providing access to tools, technology, expertise and social connections not otherwise easily accessible, the Makerspace will offer students from all disciplines a hands-on opportunity to explore new technologies, learn technical skills and work collaboratively to transform their innovative and creative ideas into tangible prototypes.
“Innovation happens when Engineers collide and collaborate with people from other disciplines,” says Ishwar K. Puri, Dean of McMaster’s Faculty of Engineering. “Over the past few years we’ve really invested in building collision spaces like the Makerspace. You need community spaces where people can come and create and work on problems in an interdisciplinary way. That’s the kind of vibrant atmosphere we want to provide for students.”
The Makerspace offers a range of equipment including 3D printers, a variety of hand tools, components for building electronic circuitry, a drill press, grinders, soldering stations, a laser cutter and even a chip setter that will enable students to make computer chips.
Going forward, equipment will added based on needs identified by the students using the space. The facility will be open to students on a drop-in basis and will be available to groups on campus who need a space to work on technology-based projects. Programming will include talks by Hamilton start-up entrepreneurs organized in partnership with The Forge, as well as other skills development activities and networking opportunities for students.