Gheorghe Curelet-Balan Blog

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Innovation is not a buzzword in the Waterloo Region.

From an almost anonymous area till 1960, known mostly for its Seagram distillery, the Region of Waterloo gained very fast an international technological reputation. Today, undisputed technology leaders are located in the Waterloo Region area, like: Open Text, MKS, Sybase iAnywhere branch, Dalsa, Maple and the star of all of them, Research In Motion. If you are wondering what is it about this region that nurtures so many technology leaders then there is only one main answer: INNOVATION.

It all starts with the educational institutions in this area. If you do some research on the roots of innovation in the Region of Waterloo, you'll learn that the University of Waterloo (UW) was always the place were innovation was born and nurtured. Most of today high-tech companies in the area are spin-offs from the research activities done at the University.

The economic impact of this is huge. The two years old data cited below from this source are quite impressing: "The university's Technology Transfer and Licensing Office has identified 106 different companies (including Waterloo Maple, Dalsa and Open Text) as private ventures that began as spinoffs from UW, making it the leading university in Canada for creating additional economic wealth through the transfer of technological resources." ... "University of Waterloo has a $1.1-billion impact annually on Waterloo Region, which includes the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, plus four surrounding townships."

It is the legacy of previous leaders and the visionary work of the current ones that makes the innovation to flourish in our area. For example, the computing pioneer Wes Graham created the University framework to allow valuable ideas to turn into innovative companies.

No wonder that in such an environment only few years are enough to put local companies on the international map of new technological revolutions.

Current leaders push even further the University innovation tradition by fostering the entrepreneurship. Among the brilliant new initiatives worth mentioning are:
1. UW Research and Technology Park that just opened recently.
2. the future Accelerator Centre that will nurture the startups ("incubatee").
3. The Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (CBET).

It looks like the Waterloo Region prepares its "silicon hills" to add other crops beside BlackBerries.

If you want to learn more, go to to read the recent series of articles published by the local newspaper The Record in its Annual Technology Spotlight.


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