Monday, February 01, 2016

A New, Smart Manufacturing Hub for Kitchener/ Waterloo

          By Chuck Black

It's common knowledge that SpaceX houses its office space, mission control, and vehicle factory in a single, three story facility in Hawthorne, California. Canadian companies will soon have the option of locating in a very similar sort of "all in one" manufacturing facility at the centre of Canada's technology triangle.

The current ex-Kumpfort Zone warehouse will become the Catalyst 137 IoT manufacturing facility sometime in 2017. Current plans include a managed innovation space for smaller companies (with suites as small as 2,000 square feet available for rent) and a variety of "maker spaces" for on-site rapid prototyping, 3D printing, RF testing/ certification lab plus an indoor test environment for drones and other physical objects, plus government, legal, import-export, venture capital, retail and health facilities. Photo and graphic c/o and

At least that's the plan behind the Catalyst 137 smart manufacturing campus, currently scheduled to open in Kitchener, Waterloo, in early 2017. The 475,000 square foot facility will be the largest of the"smart" manufacturing, Internet of Things (IoT) and "maker space" operations in North America.

"I think it's going to become the place to be in Canada for the development of hardware," according to Michael Bierstock, the president of Pierpoint Developments, and one of the people responsible for moving the project forward.

Bierstock considers the current generation of manufacturing "ill served" by cubicle farms where people have traditionally developed software applications. "With the current generation of tech being embedded into machinery, cell phones and even sneakers, we need to develop facilities from a manufacturing perspective, with physical storage and places to tinker and test real objects."

In essence, the new facilities are necessary in order to support the revolution in manufacturing just now getting underway.

Michael Bierstock, at Communitech, a Kitchener/ Waterloo industry-led innovation centre which supports nearly 1,000 local tech companies,where he spoke as part of the Catalyst137 Launch Party on January 29th, 2016. According to Bierstock, 137 isn't just the address on Glasgow Street in Kitchener where the facility is located. It's also a mystical and scientific number. As outlined on the Richard Feynman tribute website "Friends of Tuva," the "mysterious number 137," it was even once suggested that electrons captured by the as yet undiscovered "element #137" would move at the speed of light. According to Bierstock, "we hope to grow our companies at about that same speed." Photo c/o Chuck Black.

As outlined in the January 27th, 2016 The Record article, "Catalyst 137 smart manufacturing campus to open in 2017," the new facility should have room for thirty-five or more companies, with space ranging from 2,000 to 50,000 square feet for each tenant.

According to Miovision CEO and co-founder, Kurtis McBride, "the vision with Catalyst is basically to kind of give the hardware cluster a home or a brand it can attach to.” McBride feels that it's also important to try to bring on-site the sort of infrastructure that help firms to get their products to the market faster.

Miovision, a local Kitchener/ Waterloo success story founded in 2005 by three classmates from the University of Waterloo Systems Design engineering program, will serve as the anchor tenant for the campus.

The third partner in the Catalyst 137 project is Voisin Capital CEO Frank Voison. Voison began his real estate investment company in 2010 and it has since grown to include holdings across southwestern Ontario. His firm specializes in adaptive reuse projects, when an old site or building is re-purposed for a use other than which it was originally built or designed for.

The concept of a "new manufacturing economy," enabled by digital technologies and wrapped around a highly trained and knowledgeable workforce, has always been the "pot of gold" for city councils looking to improve upon the low paying service industry and contract jobs which so many of their current voters are saddled with.

Chuck Black.
Here's hoping the Kitchener/ Waterloo area a great success with Catalyst 137.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

1 comment:

  1. great stuff Chuck - keep informing us on all the innovations from Canada - Waterloo continues to shine - hope you were given sun shades as the future is so bright!


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