Sensors that measure moisture content in farm fields – an inflatable vest that calms people with autism – a football helmet decal that prevents head and brain injuries – an eco-friendly self-watering planter for vegetables – and software that composes and performs music on command.

These are just some of the cutting-edge products and business ventures associated with Simon Fraser University that will benefit from the University’s new innovation strategy, SFU Innovates, and a major new innovation facility in Harbour Centre Tower adjacent to SFU’s Vancouver campus.

SFU President Andrew Petter says SFU Innovates will support a lifecycle approach to innovation and entrepreneurship, and create a network of innovation initiatives and partnerships that will establish SFU as a leader in developing talent, technology and transformative ideas.

SFU launched the strategy on Oct. 1 at the opening of a new 24,000-square-foot facility that enlarges the capacity of SFU’s VentureLabs®—already rated a top-performing B.C. accelerator for job creation and capital formation—to make it B.C.’s largest business accelerator.

The facility represents the west coast hub of a new pan-Canadian business accelerator network operated by SFU, Ryerson University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

With $10.7 million in funding from the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, the program connects partner universities’ strengths in digital technologies.

The facility will link through SFU Innovates to a series of SFU and SFU-partner innovation initiatives. These include:

  • 4D Labs – SFU’s state-of-the-art materials science and engineering lab that collaborates with industry to generate new products and ideas;
  • RADIUS – a community-based social innovation lab and venture incubator created by SFU’s Beedie School of Business;
  • Venture Connection® – a student business incubator program, delivered in partnership with Coast Capital Savings;
  • RBC First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator – a program supporting the development of Aboriginal entrepreneurs and advancing early-stage business and social ventures;
  • Innovation Boulevard – an innovation partnership founded by SFU, the City of Surrey, and Fraser Health with a focus on the development of medical technologies;
  • Zone Startups India – the first Canadian-led international incubator/accelerator in India, in which SFU is partnered with Ryerson University, Ryerson Futures Inc. and the Bombay Stock Exchange Institute.

“This new strategy and facility, combined with our pioneering programs to promote student entrepreneurship, represent a major step forward in SFU’s commitment to be Canada’s most community-engaged research university,” says Petter.

“Universities have an obligation to support their students and faculty researchers not only to generate great ideas, but also to put those ideas to use for the benefit of society.

Adds Joy Johnson, SFU v-p, research, “SFU has always had a strong commitment to contribute to society, and over the past 50 years has reached out to the community physically as well as through its educational programs and research ventures at all three SFU campuses,”

“That same commitment to engagement drives our entire innovation strategy and its network of labs, incubators and accelerators that create jobs and power our economy.”


The new VentureLabs® facility and program are made possible in part by the Government of Canada’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP) delivered by the National Research Council-Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), and by the Province of British Columbia through the BC Innovation Council (BCIC).

Originally published in SFU News on October 1, 2015.