When you think about collaboration, what setting comes to mind? Where is the physical space your peers or new partners are meeting in?
In light of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s announcement of support to community hubs across Ontario, which optimizes public spaces for collaboration and innovation, ORION thought of a budding community hub in the Niagara region, ihub, which is the first facility of its kind to be held in a K-12 facility.
We sat down with Dino Miele, ihub founder and Kally Schokking, ihub manager to learn more. In the spirit of sharing good things, let us introduce you to what ihub is, and why it’s an important community space in its municipality.
A space in Niagara for the Niagara learning community
The Niagara region is unique for a variety of reasons, including its remarkably close network of educational professionals. The local primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions want to actively participate in the region’s economic development in a meaningful way.
The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN), Brock University, and Innovate Niagara came together with educational, industry, and community partners to help foster this desired economic impact by addressing the service gap for educational technology innovation in Canada. This collaboration led to the launch of the Educational Research & Innovation Hub (ihub) in 2014; a dynamic incubation entity focused in the K-12 educational technology (EdTech) sector.
A key innovation ingredient: essential disruption
Innovators struggle to penetrate our public education system. There is no formal process; no neutral space; no impartial organization involving all parties needed for effective conversation and action. There has been a significant disconnect between companies and researchers developing educational technologies, and the learning institutions they’re developing them for.
This is stifling innovation.
For EdTech startup companies and researchers, ihub is the only K-12 EdTech incubator in Ontario that offers a suite of services including technical assistance, professional business services, education connections, and EdTech business resources and connections. This is done through a combination of in-house expertise, partnership shared services, and an extensive network of industry-specific support resources with the goals of innovating the education experience, regional economic development, and providing opportunities for students and educators.
Unique to North America, ihub is physically located in a K-12 facility, the DSBN Academy. This school is distinct in that its student population is housed across the Niagara region, and every student will be the first in their family to attend post-secondary. In and through ihub, students are provided with valuable networking opportunities, after-school programs, bursary support, and a space for student curiosity, learning, and innovation.
Moreover, learners have direct mentorship from District School Board of Niagara, Brock University and participating entrepreneurs, which cultivates a long-term educational and economic development model throughout K-12, post-secondary education, and beyond.
So what’s brewing inside ihub – how do users navigate the opportunities?
ihub portfolio companies are EdTech innovators at varying levels of development and growth, requiring different forms of support and services. In the ihub facility, portfolio companies have a direct connection to the District School Board of Niagara. They have the opportunity to talk informally in this neutral space with other EdTech entrepreneurs and students, educators, and administrators; their peers, users, customers, and critics!
ihub industry and community partners are united under shared goals, as they participate in and help grow the EdTech innovation network in the Niagara region. Together ihub and its valued partners will foster an entrepreneurial, collaborative ecosystem in the Niagara region and improve the local economy through increased job creation and retention.
This is a collaborative, focused initiative, and it is addressing a valuable opportunity in a unique, sustainable, scalable way. ihub promises some exciting developments and very visible wins this coming school year. Follow along at ihubniagara.com.
Faces of Innovation
ORION at work in the Niagara region: watch our video about a farming innovation, in collaboration with Niagara College.