Innovation Birmingham signs Memorandum of Understanding with Toronto’s Digital Media Zone

The Minister of Trade for Ontario, Canada, together with representatives from Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone – the top-ranked university-based tech incubator in Canada and fifth in the world – has visited the Innovation Birmingham Campus to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The MoU will set the context for a programme of joint initiatives that will enable tech entrepreneurs based in Birmingham and the city region to gain invaluable insight and connections into North America, while tech entrepreneurs located in Ontario will be able to access the UK and continental European markets through Birmingham. Representatives from the UKTI, the High Commission of Canada and NatWest Bank will work alongside the Entrepreneurs in Residence and incubation centre managers at the two centres to facilitate connections.

Hon. Michael Chan, Trade Minister for Ontario, Canada said: “The signing of an MoU between the Digital Media Zone; one of the top tech incubators in Canada and indeed the whole of North America, and Innovation Birmingham’s leading UK tech incubator, will create significant global opportunities. The cities of Toronto and Birmingham both have a world-renowned automotive manufacturing legacy, which has played a part in fuelling the huge growth in the size and breadth of their respective tech communities in recent times. The collaborations that could result from this new partnership should be both highly innovative and lucrative.”

Overlooking the heart of downtown Toronto, the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) was formerly the Canadian office location for Google. It is a hub of innovation and collaboration that connects start-ups with customers, advisers, influencers and other entrepreneurs, as part of a community that supports and fosters disruptive technologies.

The programme of joint initiatives is designed to create opportunities for tech start-ups and SMEs to access new global markets, scale their business within accelerated timescales and create new high-value jobs in both locations. It promotes ‘borderless innovation’, creating communities of interest, not confined by geography. Meetings, group discussions and global hackathon events will take place via high definition video conferencing technology, which is already in place at the Innovation Birmingham Campus and Ryerson University’s DMZ.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “When visiting Toronto’s Digital Media Zone last month, it was evident just how similar the ethos, community and outputs were to the Innovation Birmingham Campus. This partnership will create benchmarking and strategic opportunities for both incubation centres, as well as opening up a wealth of global possibilities for the tech entrepreneurs based in each location.”

This agreement with Innovation Birmingham follows on from the DMZ’s successful similar partnerships with India and South Africa, helping entrepreneurs fast-track their start-ups by connecting with mentors, customers and investors internationally.

Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University said: “This initiative is an important evolution of our global partnerships that drive entrepreneurship. We’re delighted to partner with Innovation Birmingham and create a new bridge between Canada and England that offers international opportunities to entrepreneurs.”

One of the major initiatives to be delivered via this partnership is the ‘Next Big Idea Contest’; a sponsored competition to enable tech entrepreneurs from each location to spend a fortnight based in the sister incubation centre. During the two-week stay, the competition winners will be able to meet with business advisers and scope out ways to expand their businesses on a global scale.

Other initiatives will include an ongoing programme of peer to peer discussions, expert mentoring sessions and keynote presentations from regional business leaders.

There are currently 84 seed-stage tech businesses located at the DMZ, while there are 132 start-ups and SMEs based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, 90 per cent of which are tech.

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