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Ryerson launches first urban energy-focused business incubator

The Innovation Centre for Urban Energy opens doors with four companies
January 09, 2013

Photo from left to right: Plug'n Drive's Brian Millar, Shelley Snow, Ron Groves, Sheldon Levy (president of Ryerson), Josh Tzventarny and Cara Clairman. Plug'n Drive are one of the four companies in the i-CUE.

On November 16, 2012, Ryerson University launched the Innovation Centre for Urban Energy (i-CUE), Canada’s first business incubator and accelerator devoted solely to urban energy.

Housed at the Centre for Urban Energy (CUE), the i-CUE is focused on research innovation (applied research in collaboration with industry); business innovation (entrepreneurship); and student innovation (experiential learning), all within the energy sector. Its goal is to help new energy companies turn their ideas into commercial products, services and/or technologies. 

“The i-CUE is aimed at the portion of the innovation process where ideation and technology development converge. The energy industry needs entrepreneurs, but ones that know how to navigate this regulated sector. This is where the i-CUE comes in,” explains Dan McGillivray, executive director of the CUE.

“The Centre for Urban Energy has been successful in conducting high-profile research for many industry partners. Now, with the launch of the i-CUE, it adds the element of innovation,” says Dr. Bala Venkatesh, CUE’s academic director. “We need both research and innovation together in order to solve urban energy issues.”

“The i-CUE is another successful example of Ryerson’s ‘zone’ model,” adds Sheldon Levy, president of Ryerson University. “Instead of a co-op model where students work for someone else, the i-CUE gives entrepreneurial education through support, mentorship and collaborative learning, the opportunity to start their own company in the energy sector.”

There are currently four companies being incubated and/or accelerated in the i-CUE: Energy Savers, Plug’n Drive Ontario, DanTeb Enterprises and Grid Resources – with a growing list of businesses looking to join.

Energy Savers is a student-led, not-for-profit social enterprise developed by CUE and Ryerson’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE, now Enactus).  Energy Savers' mission is to help Torontonians save on their costs by educating them on the value of energy conservation and empowering them to take advantage of other existing opportunities. The company performs energy-saving home retrofits, which can save homeowners up to 50 per cent on their energy bills.

Plug’n Drive Ontario is a not-for profit organization dedicated to creating public awareness and promoting the environmental and economic benefits of electric vehicles within the province. It currently has partnerships with government, electricity companies, car and infrastructure manufacturers, researchers, non-governmental organizations and other commercial partners.

DanTeb is creating battery charging stations that can be placed in high-traffic, public places where people don’t have immediate access to a charge. These stations supply more than a dozen connections capable of simultaneously charging a number of different electronic devices including smartphones and tablets. A typical charging session lasts 10 to 15 minutes, and the users are able to interact with the digital media components of the stations or simply continue to use their phone while charging.

Grid Resources is commercializing a combined heat and power concept that will maximize the value of distributed energy for its clients.

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"We need both research and innovation together in order to solve urban energy issues."