Building a new health tech innovation ecosphere collaboratively in York Region

A very different kind of four hour kickoff event took place on January 15th in Newmarket, Ontario, hosted by the Southlake Regional Health Centre community hospital.

The “Healthcare Ecosphere” event could be a game changing first.

Eight health-tech consulting teams, five government and private funding organizations and Southlake’s hospital managers and staff gathered to hear 17 regional innovation health technology developers pitch their best new information technology ideas. In one place and at the same time.

The commercialization problem.

Southlake employs 400 physicians and a staff of 2,500. It serves a population of over 1 million people with a vision to provide them ‘shockingly excellent innovative care’.

Like all modern hospitals, Southlake was looking for new information technology solutions to the many health care delivery challenges that it must address.

In a nutshell, the amount of innovative healthcare technology created by healthcare IT SME’s outweighs what the existing healthcare system can acquire and deploy at any one time. Meaning that historically it has been very difficult to commercialize healthcare innovation in Canada, no matter how good. While the US, the UK and EU to some extent promote SME hospital product development with expenditures, there are no such programs here.

The Solution.

Former astronaut, Dr. Dave Williams, Southlake’s President and CEO is a believer in growing York Region’s home-grown innovators. Pivotal in making the Healthcare Ecosphere event happen, Williams saw that Southlake partnered with ventureLAB, York Region’s non-profit innovation centre for advanced health tech entrepreneurs. The collaboration was born and the idea came to life.

The event included commentaries on hospital partnerships by Southlake executives, a ‘success’ SME case study panel, short elevator pitches by all seventeen SME’s, normal networking and an unusual ‘speed dating’ mash-up where all of those there arranged quick meet ups on-the-spot with developers, hospital management and resource consultants.

Southlake set the stage by stipulating the innovation areas its managers were most interested in. These included IT technologies which would facilitate improvements in:

Chronic disease management
In-home remote monitoring devices/technology
Health informatics and analytics
Health systems and process re-engineering
Mobile applications

“The idea is to link small-to-medium sized enterprises with hospitals to accelerate the commercialization of their ideas,” said Dan Wasserman, entrepreneur in residence at ventureLAB. Although the GTA and York Region is home to thousands of technology developers engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs, most often they need assistance to coordinate a successful commercial launch of their technology enterprises.

The results were immediately impressive.

Of the seventeen presenters, four were immediately deemed qualified to be invited to an angel funding organization’s venture capital screening meeting. This is considered an outstanding outcome demonstrating a very high ratio for early interest.

“The Healthcare Ecosphere is a model which we think will significantly help the healthcare sector more easily adopt technologies that will greatly improve patient outcomes “said Jeremy Laurin, President and CEO of ventureLAB. “We think it’s a good first step to building a true healthcare ecosphere for SME’s in York Region and maybe across Canada.”

Here’s hoping.

Jonathon Shore
Jonathon Shore
Jonathon Shore is a principal at Mrcpartners, a Toronto based communications agency that counsels I.R., tech, social cause and political clients. He manages the blogging and news content posting and social media outreach as part of the communications team at

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