October 21, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has caused one of the most important economic crises in history. In this unprecedented context, Canadian entrepreneurs have once again shown their courage and ability to adapt. This year for BDC Small Business Week, we sat down with entrepreneurs in our ecosystem to learn about how their businesses have been impacted by COVID-19, how they’re pivoting for success, and how they’re building for the future in these uncertain times.
When the pandemic hit, universities around the world turned their attention to the safety of their students and faculty. With the challenges of ending the school year and administering exams, purchasing lab equipment for teaching became a lower priority for many institutions.
As the global standard in engineering lab equipment for teaching and research, Quanser started feeling the effects almost immediately. Quanser provides the global academic community lab equipment critical for modern engineering development.
Quanser quickly realized that online solutions for hands-on laboratories would become increasingly important. “It is impossible to conduct a good engineering program without the ability for students to engage in laboratory experiences,” says CEO Paul Gilbert. “Autonomous Vehicles, Smart Manufacturing, Smart Systems, and Healthcare Robotics are just a few of today’s technological applications that could not be developed without engineers that understand these fundamentals.”
The new climate brought the opportunity for Quanser to accelerate the development of state-of-the-art virtual products and make them customer-ready as soon as possible.
Alongside their usual operations, Quanser has been developing the technology to create “virtual” or “digital” equivalents of their solutions for years, but market adoption was slow to appear. The new climate brought the opportunity for them to accelerate the development of state of the art virtual products and make them customer-ready as soon as possible. “Almost immediately, we redeployed the focus of our R&D team to develop our range of QLABS,” says Gilbert. “Within two months we were offering customers around the world free trials to experiment with them.”
By July, Quanser formally launched QLABS, which enabled Universities to access select groupings of virtual products for their students. To date, they have had hundreds of universities globally trial the solution. Many of those universities have taken the step to subscribe and make them accessible to their incoming student population.
“In addition, we worked on a close collaboration model – the Quanser Digital Transformation Program – with a number of prominent universities in Canada, with McMaster Engineering as the pioneering super-user. We’re now available to 14 courses at McMaster, including their world leading PIVOT program for first-year students,” says Gilbert. “As of September, over a thousand first-year students at McMaster were given access to our technology and I am happy to say that the program is developing extremely well.”
Queens, the University of Toronto, the University of Windsor, and the University of Calgary are some of the other institutions that have adopted Quanser’s approach.
Building for the future in uncertain times
With a significant drop in revenue due to the pandemic, Quanser took a long hard look at their mission and value proposition. From Europe to the Middle East to India and South East Asia 2020, Quanser saw significant budget cuts and delays.
But their long-term aim of bringing transformation labs for teaching and research to universities around the world is still the case; perhaps even more so now.
2021 will be another tough year, but with a world-class solution that will lead to more opportunities, Quanser is focusing their efforts on supporting key channel partners.
“Our customer base has been incredibly receptive to our quick shift in the provision of virtual labs,” says Gilbert. “We’re in many conversations to address the immediate problems universities are facing. We firmly believe experience with Quanser virtual labs will lead to the door opening for hardware sales down the road. In essence, the pivot we have made has given Quanser the opportunity to expand our potential market.”
Quanser is managing their resources carefully until the rest of the world reaches some form of stability. 2021 will be another tough year, but with a world-class solution that will lead to more opportunities, Quanser is focusing their efforts on supporting key channel partners in many parts of the world.
“Ultimately, I believe that we will start to see meaningful growth in 2022 and have to continue to batten down the hatches next year” says Gilbert. “Our organization is strong, our value to the market has been enhanced, and the spirit in the company is one of taking control of our destiny by recognizing the changes in the market and offering solutions that meet the need.”
Learn more about how Quanser is developing state-of-the-art virtual labs on their website.
Quanser is part of ventureLAB’s alumni network. ventureLAB is a leading technology hub located in Markham in York Region, Canada’s second largest tech cluster. Through programs focused on capital, talent, technology, and customers, ventureLAB has supported over 2,000 tech companies and entrepreneurs, including 100 companies that have raised over $115 million and created close to 4,000 jobs. Join us.