Envisioning the Windsor-Detroit Automotive Innovation Superhub
Having the opportunity to manage the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator (Accelerator) for the past 5 years I have seen a remarkable growth in the entrepreneurial appetite of Windsor. As well as the astonishing resilience and desire to succeed displayed by our neighbours across the river is proving to be a great inspiration and is setting the stage for great regional collaboration.
A huge opportunity lies in the shared knowledge and expertise in automotive and manufacturing, which have made Windsor and Detroit, the respective automotive capitals of Canada and the US. The key is connecting technology and innovation disrupters who specialize in that area with the huge knowledge base of automotive and manufacturing available in Windsor/Detroit.
At the GOLS conference presented by the Odette School of Business, I had the opportunity to meet an icon in the automotive industry, the CEO of FCA Sergio Marchionne. I had the pleasure to exchange thoughts about the future of our region and how we can better collaborate in the future. The two areas that stand out in particular are cross-border collaboration and bridging high-tech innovation with our expert manufacturing knowhow. In his latest CAR interview, Mr. Marchionne stated:
“I think the next paradigm of this business is a paradigm that involves the cooperation for technology with the disruptors.”
I could not agree more and Windsor/Detroit is the ideal region to bring together these two components. Many of the startups we work with will be developing the next stage disruptive technologies for the automotive sector and Windsor/Detroit offers the perfect playground to connect this innovation with the people and spaces where these vehicles are built.
We are well positioned to create an innovation-manufacturing super-hub and we can make this happen. The Accelerator and Windsor Essex Capital Angel Network (WECAN) which is an active member of Angel Investors Ontario, NACO, OBIO, MVCA and ACA are working with companies that have the potential to grow on both sides of the Canada/US border.
WECAN has worked with a number of truly inspiring companies in 2016-2017: ACERTA using machine learning, statistical analysis, big data and complex algorithums to detect anomalies and predict failures in real time for vehicles coming off the assembly line and in the field. VELOMETRO the “un-car” in the car sharing marketplace bringing a fully enclosed pedal-electric single person vehicle to the global car sharing marketplace. Vemo ticks all the last mile car sharing boxes for civic transit solutions – a livable city solution that facilitates a modal shift to zero emissions and a healthy lifestyle. CORA Cyber Security a step beyond encryption providing unbreakable cyber security for vehicle access, protection against potential highway high-jacking of electronical and electronic systems as well as the storage of confidential data. As well WECAN has worked across the border to establish relationships with US Angel Investment Groups like Blue Water and Great Lakes, also exchanging great Canadian and US start-up companies including: SURCLEAN which has developed an automated, laser coating removal solution, which creates less waste, is less labor intensive and is 16X faster than chemicals.
As a Michigan Venture Capital Association Member WECAN was invited to the AutoMobili-D show at Cobo prior to the NAIAS Detroit show to meet with TechStar Mobility start-ups including companies from the US, Mexico and Canada with some real standouts like: HAASALERT (the smart city), INVENTEV (supply chain), VETELIA (electric bikes), SPATIAL (mapping), WEATHER TELEMATICS (live road conditions). Each of these disruptive technologies is dramatically superior to the current status quo to bring innovation, cost competitiveness and benefits to society while offering WECAN Investors key opportunities to support made in North America Solutions from Canadian and US Start-Ups and Early Stage companies.
There is truly a huge opportunity to position the Windsor Business Accelerator as a North American automotive / manufacturing / technology innovation super-hub through strategic partnerships with WECAN Investors, other Canadian/US business incubators/accelerators and by gaining access to an international network of connections.