UBC launches downtown innovation hub

UBC now has a dedicated hub in its Robson Square location to support innovation, as of June 14.

According to VP Research Gail Murphy, the Innovation UBC hub will focus on “four pathways of innovation”: entrepreneurship, commercialization of research results, partnership development and knowledge exchange. This idea first emerged two years ago after the VP Research office consulted with faculties and other community stakeholders.

“We realized there was a need to support four different pathways of innovation, so ... we wanted to have collision space for these different pathways to be able to intersect,” she said.

More tangibly, the hub hosts innovation development officers along with those from the offices of Corporate Relations and University-Industry Liaison. entrepreneurship@UBC (e@UBC), a program that supports UBC community members’ entrepreneurial ventures, also has some of their operations there.

“It’s really a space for UBC faculty and students to either be working in the e@UBC space there or to be using the meeting areas to be meeting with people from the outside,” Murphy said.

Inside the innovation hub
Inside the innovation hub Vicky Huang

So far, those who are using the hub have responded positively to the new space. One advantage has been the convenience created by the hub’s downtown location.

“The space at Robson Square definitely offers our ventures like a step further into the startup community because we’re not all the way up here at UBC campus,” said Katie Verigin, e@UBC’s marketing strategist.

“We’re like right in the hub of Vancouver startups, and I think that’s good from the venture perspective ... it’s more accessible to the general public and for companies to try to go out and meet customers and stuff like that.”

Noting that “a few venturers” have moved into the hub, Verigin also pointed to the sense of community that is facilitated by the shared working space.

“Through the space, we have been able to share our ideas with like-minded entrepreneurs, along with resources and experiences,” said Jackie Cheung, chief operating officer of Eagle Energy — one of the ventures in the hub.

“If my business has a problem to overcome, more likely than not, one of the other ventures in the space have experienced and worked through the same issue and able to provide helpful guidance.”

Overall, Murphy seems pleased with the progress with the hub’s operation since its recent opening.

“I think we have already a lot of interactions happening because of the new collision space, the new innovation hub,” she said. “And it’s great to see that interaction between UBC people and the community happening in a space that is a little bit easier for the community to access.”