The Eastern Ontario Innovation Corridor (EOIC) was formed in early 2020 to establish eastern Ontario as a leading, forward-thinking innovation district in Canada. It’s an integrated network of innovation hubs, industry experts, academic institutions, research and development facilities and government and community support systems; it spans from Durham Region to the Quebec border. Basically, it’s a one-stop shop of on-demand entrepreneurial support for innovators and SMEs at any stage of business. “COVID taught us that startups can thrive anywhere as long as they have the support they need to succeed,” says Sherry Colbourne, president and CEO of Spark Centre. “The communities that make up the EOIC are collaborating to bring our individual assets together for the benefit of startups choosing this area as their headquarters.”
What makes the EOIC unique is that while other parts of Ontario concentrate their support for entrepreneurs within their respective regions, the EOIC combines the strengths of communities across all of eastern Ontario to create a more robust, more collaborative network of support for companies. By establishing landing-pad communities, the EOIC initiative works proactively to create an appealing atmosphere for incoming entrepreneurs, working through the consortium of support services within each community. It also serves as an open forum in the area for communities to discuss ways to enhance individual innovation ecosystems, cross-promote each other’s success stories and support each other in attracting and growing innovation.
Spearheaded by the two most eastern regional innovation centres, Spark Centre and Kingston-based Launch Lab, along with their respective communities, the EOIC joins several “hubs” (entrepreneurial-focused organizations with their client base and unique offerings) to align their expertise and resources to drive the EOIC initiative forward. These include Queen’s University, PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Okwaho Equal Source and The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce. The EOIC also consists of “landing pads,” a collective of organizations that connect newly arrived or migrating businesses or talent with the resources needed for settling into their new community (like Durham Region, the Bay of Quinte, Kingston and Cornwall/SDG Counties), plus other partners in the area that offer unique assets for entrepreneurs and companies.
“Each partner in this collaborative initiative is critical to the EOIC’s success in bridging the gap between business and social environments,” says Cathy Ireland, business development manager for the EOIC. “Together, these partners drive entrepreneurial success and positive economic outcomes for eastern Ontario.”
To say that the benefits of this initiative are plenty is an understatement. For startups and entrepreneurs, whether local or new to Canada, the EOIC removes the barriers to innovation by expanding the reach of programs, mentorship, community support and investment or capital funding opportunities available in each region across the area.
For participating hubs and the economy, the EOIC provides an opportunity to anchor high-growth businesses within eastern Ontario communities by promoting key sectors and attracting startups to their respective regions. The EOIC also leverages incoming innovation or technology solutions to create an interconnected network of business solutions and connections to address challenges that may impact specific regions, like supply chain issues, talent supply, healthcare or housing.
“Launch Lab’s purpose is to foster entrepreneurship and the commercialization of innovations to help build globally competitive companies in eastern Ontario.” says Scott Runte, CEO of Launch Lab. “As a founding member of the EOIC, we have been able to strengthen our partnership model, connect our clients to a broader range of advisory support and collectively strengthen the voice of innovation across the region.”
Since its inception in 2020 (despite the challenges posed by the pandemic), the EOIC has been full steam ahead. In addition to establishing its hubs, landing pads and an official steering committee to advance its mission, the EOIC has been busy raising the profile of eastern Ontario’s entrepreneurs and expanding its relationships between the regions and their assets. In anticipation of officially launching the EOIC in the fall of this year, the EOIC is also deep into planning this summer’s Corridor Connects, a two-day, in-person bus tour designed to introduce newly landed founders to the resources and support available from Durham Region to Cornwall. This is only the beginning, and with high-calibre organizations working together, the EOIC is well on its way to solidifying eastern Ontario as a leading innovation district that startups need to note.

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