Make it 44 Gaukel

The Accelerator Centre expands its world class programming downtown with a creative new makerspace at 44 Gaukel

It might be robots instead of rubber soles and buttons, but the manufacturing industry is alive and well in Kitchener downtown. Helping to foster this renaissance around advanced manufacturing is a new initiative by the Accelerator Centre (AC) offering young hardware based companies new opportunities to grow and scale in the core.

This fall, with the support of the City of Kitchener and in partnership with ArtsBuild Ontario, the award-winning incubator will officially open the doors of a new 10,000 square foot facility located at 44 Gaukel, aiming to bring its unique mentorship and programming to fast-growing startups keen on living and working downtown.

The expansion move addresses two key objectives for the AC. First, the AC is actively looking for ways to more meaningfully support hardware-centric companies and others working in IoT and life sciences, which now represent about 30 percent of the incubator's clientele. This means providing more manufacturing space and equipment, such as workbenches, soldering tables and 3D printers required by hardware focused startups. Second, the AC wanted to better serve those clients who were specifically interested in locating in the Kitchener downtown core.

"The 44 Gaukel facility offers us the perfect urban location with built in lab facilities as well as office suites, meeting rooms and collaboration areas, and it will allow us to provide that "next level" tailored programming to young hardware, IoT and life sciences companies who are scaling up for growth but who are not yet quite at the stage where signing long term leases in manufacturing facilities makes financial sense," explains Emily Jackson, Director of Client Experience & Special Projects at the Accelerator Centre.

The 44 Gaukel facility is the ideal 'makerspace,' says Jackson, with a combination of tile and polished concrete floors, sinks in most suites and electricity running the perimeter. With funding from partners, the AC also hopes to kit out the facility with the kind of equipment needed by hardware startups including a 3D printer, desktop CNC machine, desktop fume hood, band saw, drill press, hand tools, workbenches and lockable storage. Conestoga College and the University of Waterloo Critical Media lab, which occupy the first floor of 44 Gaukel, will add an additional creative flavor, bringing to the table even more opportunities for collaboration through activities such as design thinking hackathons.

The partnership with ArtsBuild Ontario adds a very interesting dimension to the project, says Mike Pereira, Director of Marketing and Community Development for the Accelerator Centre. Under the agreement, AC startups will occupy 5,000 square feet of the facility while the other half of the space will be occupied by artists and other arts-related initiatives coming out of Waterloo Region's creative community. "Having ArtsBuild Ontario join with us presents an exceptional opportunity to inject the creative skill of Waterloo Region's vibrant arts community into our startup environment. There is a growing recognition that there's more to building a successful startup than technology. 44 Gaukel will bring together the technology and business ingredients that are necessary for building a successful company under one roof."

While details of the broader expansion were being ironed out with the City of Kitchener and ArtsBuild Ontario, the AC and a handful of startups have occupied the first floor of 44 Gaukel in a trial move to test the waters and assess demand. If all goes as planned, larger 10,000 square foot facility will open its doors to hardware startups mid-summer 2016 with a grand opening planned for later in the fall.

"From a location standpoint R+T Park offers a lot of opportunities for companies, especially with its proximity to the University of Waterloo," says Pereira, "but we have to acknowledge that the downtown core is the right fit for some companies. For instance if you are looking to be the next Miovision, studying pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow, or an IoT company working on a smart city initiative, locating within an urban centre just makes With the trend definitely swinging back toward advanced manufacturing and hardware, the AC needs to make sure we are providing what our startups need to grow and flourish. 44 Gaukel came to us at just the right time."