#14: Ontario-based businesses and the innovation born as a result of COVID-19
The Spark: What is TransPod?
Sebastien Gendron, co-founder and CEO: Founded in 2015, TransPod is a Canadian-based startup (with offices in Italy and France) designing the world’s leading hyperloop system to make ultra-high-speed hyperloop transportation a reality. TransPod’s system will move people faster, with dramatic reductions in fossil fuel usage. Based on aerospace engineering innovations, TransPod’s 1,000-kilometre-per-hour passenger vehicle system will bring about a new, convenient, reliable mode of transportation to virtually shrink distances and connect people, cities and businesses.
“While TransPod is not normally a medical device manufacturer, the team is innovative and agile — and most importantly, eager and motivated to help.”
The Spark: What was TransPod working on before the pandemic?
SG: TransPod’s mission is to develop technological innovation to build an ultra-high-speed hyperloop system that is fast, safe, cost-efficient and environmentally sustainable. With a primary focus on research and development, we were working on building a three-kilometre-long test track near the city of Limoges in France to facilitate system testing and inform the construction of a working prototype of the TransPod Vehicle.
TransPod also co-founded a consortium comprising select hyperloop companies to define, establish and standardise the methodology and framework to regulate hyperloop travel systems. This international hyperloop initiative is working to ensure interoperability and high safety standards throughout Europe.
TransPod also announced a partnership with the Government of Alberta to support the development of a 1,000-kilometre-per-hour hyperloop transportation system in the province. The project will bring private investment to the region and is estimated to create up to 38,000 jobs over 10 years, diversify Alberta’s economy, improve the efficient movement of people and goods and reduce Alberta’s carbon emissions by up to 300,000 tonnes per year.
The Spark: When the pandemic hit, when did you decide your business could change course, and how exactly did you do it?
SG: Though our focus is transportation technology, when the pandemic hit, TransPod quickly looked within our engineering ranks to identify ways we coud harness our aerospace expertise to support efforts to combat COVID. Led by TransPod’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Ryan Janzen, the TransPod engineering team mobilised at the drop of a hat to conduct research and design.
While TransPod is not normally a medical device manufacturer, the team is innovative and agile — and most importantly, eager and motivated to help. We have designed advanced new features to support the development of next-generation ventilators that are versatile, affordable and empower medical professionals with a higher level of precise control and deeper insights.
The Spark: What have you learned from pivoting?
SG: For every crisis, there is opportunity. TransPod’s investment into fighting COVID-19 also enables us to diversify our activities, grow our business and develop new areas of expertise with potential synergies with our core business. The last few months have shown that the ability to stay agile and open-minded is the key to business success. While TransPod is still a transportation tech company, we are continuing to invest in developing the next-generation medical ventilator to be more effective and affordable.