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Kwench site answers University of Victoria’s thirst for downtown startup support

Female tech innovators among first to benefit from Victoria-based programs
Sahar Sam, co-founder and chief science officer of Solaires Entreprises Inc., was a participant in UVic innovation centre’s W Launch and W Venture programs. (Courtesy UVic Photo Services)

The University of Victoria added a downtown creative workspace to its arsenal of learning sites.

UVic work through Kwench – a work and culture club in downtown Victoria – brings together academics, industry and other partners in the community to access programs and services in a highly visible, work-integrated environment.

“By moving into Victoria’s downtown core, UVic can help cultivate a collaborative and dynamic innovation ecosystem in our region,” Lisa Kalynchuk, vice-president of research and innovation said in a statement.

UVic Kwench provides free programming to support venture exploration and early-stage startups. The network expands the existing work of UVic’s Coast Capital Innovation Centre – the university’s startup incubator. Since its launch in 2016, the centre has helped more than 1,300 students and supported the launch of more than 150 startups.

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Roughly half of all program participants are from underrepresented groups, including women, visible minorities and Indigenous peoples.

Sahar Sam, co-founder and chief science officer of Solaires Entreprises, was a participant in the innovation centre’s 2020 W Launch and W Venture programs, which supported more than 40 female entrepreneurs. Solaires is a Canadian cleantech company focused on sustainable solar cell technology.

“As a researcher, I personally know there are so many innovations happening in the lab. This UVic innovation opportunity gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zones as well as new tools and the community connections I needed to take an idea into the market,” Sam said.

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W Launch fed into the W Venture program – supporting more than 30 companies led by women – run by regional partners, including UVic, Viatec and Accelerate Okanagan, with funding from Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster.

Planning for 2022 W Launch programs is underway.

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About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

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