Cambridge’s business community got a sneak peek, on Sept. 26, of the new Grand Innovations Centre being built as part of the Gaslight District in the Galt core.
“It’s been a while since we’ve done anything, and we thought it would be good to give people an update on what’s happening,” said Tim Ellis, who is spearheading the development of the next-generation incubator centre.
With Grand Innovations, located in the former Tiger Brand building at the corner of Grand Avenue and Cedar Street, Ellis has 50,000 square feet to play with. Like much of the Galt core, Grand Innovations is blending the old with the new, as the 19th-century industrial building is repurposed, becoming something of a factory producing new high-tech companies and services.
But nothing about the operation will be cookie-cutter, according to Ellis, who was previously the CEO and chief operating officer of Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre startup incubator, and a senior business adviser and mentor to young companies with the Communitech Hub.
“We have had a lot of startup companies approach us, but I’m not about to just take anyone,” Ellis said. “We want to work (with) the companies we think have the best chance of being a success.”
On the main floor, Conestoga College has already moved in, and about a dozen students are involved in the development of an applied research and development hub, which is expanding the college’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing (CSM) and builds on the development of new technologies to improve e-waste recycling.
Conestoga’s CSM conducts applied research in partnership with local companies, including Can-Technologies, Fusion Cast and Innovative Steam Technologies.
Conestoga researchers are also working with several local companies, including Greentec, to develop new recycling technologies for dealing with waste electrical and electronic equipment, which is the fastest-growing sector of solid waste management.
Grand Innovations will also be the launching pad for Conestoga’s cybersecurity program, supplying innovation and applied research for that industry. The cybersecurity hub will develop new solutions to help businesses adapt to change and respond to the risks associated with the ever-increasing reliance on cybertechnology.
The City of Cambridge has also moved in. The city’s economic development department, Invest Cambridge, has set up shop and will be assisting new and existing businesses.
“This is where the action is going to be, and we want to be a part of it,” James Goodram, city director of economic development, told the Cambridge Times.
According to a promotional brochure from HIP Developments, the company behind the creation of the Gaslight District, “Grand Innovations will combine private, public and institutional sectors in an environment conducive to fostering applied research and innovation for industry and new enterprise. It will formulate a creative workspace for grand ideas.”
To do that, Ellis is weaving together a wide range of services to support fledgling startups, as well as existing businesses. On the second floor of Grand Innovations, construction is still ongoing on turnkey office space for those businesses, as well as the support services, such as law and accounting services, that will be needed to help them succeed.
In putting together Grand Innovations, Ellis said, he wants to set up the hub to be “sustainable over the long haul.” As part of the recent opening sneak peek, a series of Grand Innovations sponsorship opportunities were presented to potential investors. For a price, investors can assist Grand Innovations with the purchase of furnishing and equipment, in return for use of the facilities for meetings and events.
Although carpenters, electricians, drywallers and painters are busy in every corner of the building, Ellis said construction will be completed in November.
“That’s when the real work will begin,” he said.
To learn more about Grand Innovations, go to grand-innovations.com.