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HCI is a 12 to 24 month program dedicated to supporting both silicon and hardware companies as they scale their companies to compete globally. Funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, this is a free competitive program and you don’t give up any equity to participate. It is built to support hardware tech startups beyond capital investment.

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What is the HCI?

ventureLAB’s HCI program is designed specifically for startups building solutions for technologies like AI, IoT, wearable computing, 5G, and other transformative technologies. The HCI program helps you navigate the hardware entrepreneurial ecosystem through access to a state-of-the-art hardware lab, deep tech expertise, investors, manufacturers, and supply chains so you can develop the strategy, network, and tools for growth. Unlike other incubators, this program is specifically built for the unique challenges that hardware companies face. Ten silicon and hardware founders will be selected to join our 2021 cohort and benefit from our strength in deep tech expertise.

Why HCI?

Building a thriving hardware company is complex. You need a playbook specific to hardware companies to get a product ready for release and overcome the challenges unique to hardware companies, from longer lead times to higher cost to entry. This is why ventureLAB created HCI in 2019 – to support hardware companies with a bespoke program to create more Build-to-Scale companies in Canada.

Key Dates

  • September 1 – October 15, 2020: Application Period
  • October 15 – November 15: Evaluation period for applicants
  • End of November: All applicants notified of their status
  • January 2021: Second cohort kicks off & formal announcement

How to Apply


Stay tuned for the announcement of the second cohort. Sign up for our newsletter!


Eligibility Criteria

Due to the large amount of applications, there are a few eligibility requirements that our team reviews for each application:

  • Actively developed or developing a semiconductor product, silicon IP or embedded hardware product
  • Your company must have been founded within 5 years immediately preceding the application
  • Revenue needs to be less than $5M in the last 12 months
  • Provide a clear vision of your product or service being built, and identify the market and target segments
  • Located in southern Ontario or plan to establish long-term presence in Southern Ontario

What You'll Get if Selected

We understand that hardware founders experience unique challenges and have a finite amount of capital and time to bring their vision to reality. As an HCI program member, you’ll receive:


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24/7 access to the HCI Lab with both test & measurement and environmental testing capabilities. The HCI Lab features state-of-the-art specialized equipment that is often prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable to start-up companies. From wafer testing, through qualification testing, to the environmental test chambers, we have a lineup of tools to suit the needs of each stage to bring your device to market.


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The HCI program provides you with prototyping support, production services, and powerful, industry-leading Electronic Design Automation (EDA) toolsets throughout product development. Differentiate your product, reduce costs, shorten development time, and conduct research, all with industry-leading Arm IP at zero cost.


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Access to a curated team of veteran hardware and silicon development experts with over 100 collective years of experience. We will provide you with guidance and support needed for each stage of development. From design, engineering, purchase and supply contracts, and intellectual property (IP) protection, the HCI team understands your needs and delivers solutions at each stage of your business.


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Our HCI team works with you to connect to experts in supply chain management, product environmental compliance, and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) compliance to gain the knowledge and expertise necessary to achieve milestones in the development process. With our exclusive partnership with Silicon Catalyst, there will also be opportunities to co-incubate.


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Access expert industry advisors in design, fabrication, supply chain, and customer engagement to work with you to define business milestones and put a growth plan in place. Most importantly, your advisory team will make introductions to qualified partnerships that will give you a competitive edge.


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The ventureLAB Capital Investment Program (CIP) is targeted at companies ready to scale. As an HCI member, you will receive support through CIP to craft a compelling pitch, connect with strategically aligned investors, and create a long-term capital strategy to support the rapid growth of your business.


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Gain access to market intelligence and premium reports from top-tier research firms


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Premium access to curated educational programming and exclusive partner 1-on-1s


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Free workspace (up to 2 spots) in the ventureLAB Innovation Space, a home for all your business needs. It is more than just a co-working space, connecting you to a community of tech founders.


Bionic-i: A hardware biotechnology company focused on augmenting vision and combating blindness with a surgically implantable breakthrough device that can treat and monitor a genetic disease.

BluMind.AI: A fabless semiconductor start-up with deep expertise in AI, semiconductor and automotive technologies, applying unique analog concepts to machine learning inferencing to dramatically lower power consumption and latency.

Cyberworks Robotics: A developer of Autonomous Self-Driving Software for non-automotive vehicles.

Ekidna Sensing: Ekidna sensing provides rapid, simple to operate, and on-demand cannabinoid testing for the growing cannabis industry, solving a pressing need for simplified testing.

Humantec Inc.: Manufactures and markets the Menopod, a handheld electronic cooling device for women suffering from hot flashes brought on by menopause.

Micromensio: Micromensio is a fabless semiconductor company with a unique, portable, platform bio/chemical sensing solution.

Tartan AI: A hardware/firmware company targeting optimizations for machine learning workloads, offering processing elements and transparent memory compression technologies.

Wind Shape Technology Inc.: A Canadian technology company dedicated to finding solutions to safe and sustainable water use with the aim to promote conservation and health.


HCI Advisory Board

Alain Chandonnet


Julia Elvidge

Past President and Co-founder, Chipworks

Niraj Mathur

President, Coreus Technologies Inc.

Richard Dasher

Director, US-Asia Technology Management Center and Adjunct Professor, Stanford University

Warren Ali

Senior Vice President, Innovation, Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA)

Interested in Becoming A Partner?

HCI is funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. Contact us at hci@venturelab.ca to learn more about becoming a Hardware Catalyst Initiative partner.


“When the HCI team first announced its mission, it sounded like quite a challenge as the first program of its kind in Canada. But the program’s success was inevitable. This hardworking team has laid out clear objectives, established partnerships with the top tech companies in the region, and set up a facility with state-of-the-art technologies. It has been a pleasure working with ventureLAB, a team that is both professional and personable.


Denis Jacques, President & CEO, Keysight Technologies Canada Inc.

“The Hardware Catalyst Initiative has provided WST with significant benefits. Having access to the latest test equipment through the HCI Lab has accelerated our prototype and product development and allowed us to troubleshoot and test our hardware design reliably and efficiently. The HCI team has been a pleasure to work with, contributed their expertise on ESD and testing methodology and is readily available to address our questions.”


John Tryhub, Vice President, Wind Shape Technology Inc.

“ventureLAB’s HCI team has great expertise in hardware development, manufacturing, deployment, and more. They have strong industry expertise and a large hardware network to connect us with key partners and customers. The HCI program has guided us through the electronics and hardware industry in ways we would never have considered – and to the benefit of our team and product.”


Nic Boileau, President & CEO, Ekidna Sensing

“The HCI program has given us invaluable guidance, networking opportunities, and resources, which have dramatically enhanced our road to success. The opportunity to collaborate with the HCI team and partners has helped our team learn and grow. I highly recommend the program to anyone who wants an edge on the competition.”


Patricia Copeland, President, Humantec Inc.

“The HCI program is exactly what we needed: industry-specific mentorship, connections to the necessary partners in a semiconductor supply chain, and access to a state-of-the-art lab to support our product development. Joining the HCI program was a major step forward for our company.”


Brendan Crowley, Co-Founder & CEO, Micromensio Inc.

“Synopsys is a proud partner of ventureLAB’s Hardware Catalyst Initiative, and we are excited to see the expansion of this program to include additional cohorts. After successfully engaging with existing companies that are part of this initiative, we are eager to help new companies joining the HCI by supplying Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools and expertise so they can realize their potential. We look forward to further supporting this important partnership with ventureLAB and Canadian high-tech companies.”


Mario Dorio, Director, North America Sales, Synopsys

“The HCI team has been an invaluable resource throughout our journey. The ventureLAB advisors are always available to share the wealth of their experience, and it has been fantastic working with them this past year. I would highly recommend the HCI program to any hardware company looking to scale their business.”


Joseph Ma, CEO, Bionic-i Inc.

“Silicon development places a significant financial burden on start-ups. The HCI program introduced us to partners who have helped to reduce our initial capital spend, allowing us to grow and raise funding with more ease.”


John Gosson, Founder & CTO, Blumind.ai

“AMD is an innovation leader in the semiconductor industry, and we are excited to help found ventureLAB’s Hardware Catalyst Initiative. We look forward to building on Canada’s existing hardware expertise by working with other innovative companies to push the boundaries of what is possible.”


Kevin O’Neil, Corp. VP, Legal & AMD Canada Managing Director

“We’ve got workers’ and Canadian businesses’ backs. With FedDev Ontario funding towards the Hardware Catalyst Initiative, promising tech companies will have direct access to the equipment, expertise and support needed to grow and scale locally, and compete globally.”


Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages

“ventureLAB empowers startups to develop a growth path to success through mentorship, access to testing tools, and financial resources startups would not normally have access to. The HCI program is great for the new economy and our current climate of digital transformation.”


Mike Gordon, Account Manager, GAP Wireless

“Technology does not run an enterprise. Relationships do. From the initial engagement with ventureLAB and the HCI program, we were impressed with their commitment and efficiency to make things happen. They will aid your company to success. Airo.Life very much looks forward to our continued relationship.”


Doug A Mochrie, Owner & President, Airo.Life


Frequently Asked Questions

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When will the application call be issued?

Applications for first call will open on September 1 and close on October 15, 2020 at 5 P.M. ET. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Key Dates:

  • September 1 – October 15, 2020: Application Period
  • September 15: Application FAQ Webinar
  • October 15 – November 15: Evaluation period for applicants
  • End of November: All applicants notified of their status
  • January 2021: Second cohort kicks off & formal announcement

What does the program offer?

  • 24/7 access to a hardware lab with state-of-the-art specialized equipment, such as high speed spectrum analyzer and high speed oscilloscope, as well as prototyping, production services, and Electronic Design Automation (EDA) toolsets
  • Access to highly experienced hardware and silicon development experts, as well as supply chain management, product environmental compliance, and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) compliance experts
  • Dedicated advisory team to work with the company to define business milestones and to support them with resource navigation, introductions, and putting a growth plan in place
  • Specialized supports and guidance around: intellectual property (IP) protection, market development, purchase and supply contracts
  • Support through the Capital Investment Program
  • Access to Market Intelligence and premium reports from top-tier research firms
  • Premium access to curated educational programming and exclusive partner 1-on-1s
  • Free workspace (up to 2 spots per team) at ventureLAB

How long does the program last?

The program runs between 12 to 24 months depending on the stage and needs of the company.

What sort of expertise do you offer?

During the program, companies may receive specialized support and access to expertise such as:

  • Hardware and silicon development
  • Intellectual property (IP) protection
  • Market development
  • Supply chain management
  • Product environmental compliance
  • Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) compliance
  • Capital financing

Will we get office space, how much, how long?

Companies accepted into the HCI will receive access to one desk (up to 2 badges) for the duration of the program (up to 24 months).

Can we be removed from the program?

Yes. Companies accepted into the program will be asked to sign a Client Engagement Agreement at the start of the program, which outlines the expectations of the company (i.e. reporting frequency, Code of Conduct). If those clauses are not met, ventureLAB reserves the right to remove companies from the program.

How is the HCI program different from other programs ventureLAB offers?

This program is specifically targeted to tech companies that are developing silicon technology or embedded hardware systems, and in addition to the customized advisory, companies will also have access to a purpose-built hardware lab and prototyping/production toolsets. The support provided will also be longer (12-24 months) compared to other programs.

If I am in another program at ventureLAB, can I also qualify for HCI?

Yes, current ventureLAB clients may qualify for HCI, however, must go through the same application process as other applicants. We encourage you to speak to your Lead Advisor or Programs team if you are interested in applying to the HCI. You will then be sent the separate HCI application, or be notified when the next call opens.

What is HCI trying to achieve?

A couple of years ago, together with industry and not-for-profit partners, we explored the need and feasibility of a Hardware Catalyst Initiative in Ontario. A common challenge discovered was the lack of access to expensive tools, resources, and clean rooms for SMEs building hardware and silicon technologies in Canada, as well as a significant mentorship and talent gap.


This competitive program will support tech companies that build foundational technologies that support transformative sectors like AI, quantum computing, virtual reality, and beyond. Over the next five years, the HCI will support up to 40 companies, create over 200 jobs, and commercialize 15 new products and technologies.


Based in York Region, Canada’s second largest tech cluster, the HCI will help southern Ontario-based tech SMEs accelerate their time to market in a sector that normally incurs lengthy entry and scale times, enabling Canadian hardware and silicon companies to grow and scale locally, and compete globally.

Does HCI get any stake in my company?

No, ventureLAB and the Hardware Catalyst Initiative do not take any equity in your company.

Which companies/projects would be considered for the program?

The HCI is Canada’s first hardware and silicon-focused incubator. This competitive program supports silicon and hardware companies to scale their businesses in southern Ontario and compete globally.


HCI will support tech companies that build foundational technologies that support transformative sectors like AI, quantum computing, 5G, IoT, UAV, virtual reality, and beyond.


Not sure if you’re eligible, or have questions about the HCI? Contact us at hci@venturelab.ca.

How long before we find out if we have been selected?

You should expect to hear back from the ventureLAB team by the end of November 2020.

Does ventureLAB provide us funding?

No. However, we will work with companies at the right stage to help identify potential public and private funding opportunities.

Have a question?

Contact our HCI team at hci@venturelab.ca.

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