A widely-recognized theory is that great innovation happens with coincidental collisions: bright minds chatting as they pour a cup of joe in the office common space, and discovering that together they might be the next influential start-up.
In Hamilton, a city with a now-vibrant innovation community, a spot for these collisions was lacking.
Now, Innovation Factory (IF), Hamilton's not-for-profit regional innovation centre, has upgraded to an office space in McMaster's Innovation Park about two-and-a-half times larger than what it had before.
The brand-new offices will be revealed at a reception Thursday evening, but CBC Hamilton got in early for a sneak peek.
'It's a place where people can feel they can do anything: work, collaborate, meet. We want to constantly have a buzz.' —Keanin Loomis, Innovation Factory
"As the regional innovation centre in Hamilton — that's what we're officially recognized as — we finally have the space befitting a centre of innovation, so now we can be that centre," said Keanin Loomis, Innovation Factory's chief advocate.
Along with an open and welcoming "master control" — or reception area — a large boardroom, cozy conference room and more office space for their expanding staff is the piece de resistance: the "Innovation Destination." Loomis said this is where IF staff hopes those accidental collisions happen.
"It's a place where people can feel they can do anything: work, collaborate, meet," Loomis said. "We want to constantly have a buzz."
The Innovation Destination features a big, open, well-lit room adjacent to the building's atrium, which Loomis hopes will act as spillover.
"We wanted to create a space where people really feel comfortable — especially people within the innovation ecosystem — and can come here before a meeting and grab a coffee," Loomis said. "It's that type of stuff that really facilitates innovation."
The room is modeled after the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ont., where IF's executive director Ron Neumann worked before coming to Hamilton.
Up front is a common kitchen island housing the ever-important coffee maker and tall chairs, along with more tables and chairs for seating and meeting. At the back is a "conversation" table, and on the wall behind it the Hamilton skyline is painted in whiteboard paint and makes a creative space for jotting down ideas.
Local sponsors and federal grants made it possible for Innovation Factory to expand its space, and also its growing client list. Loomis said IF now support "SMEs" (small and medium enterprises) in addition to a long list of start-ups, and is helping established companies work on fostering innovation.
"[City of Hamilton] Public Works invited us in to talk about innovation, and we've had conversations with Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph's Healthcare about innovation," he said.
Loomis can't predict what will happen when the office does in fact become a destination for innovation and when people will see proof of the innovation theory in Hamilton.
"A lot of it is going to be organic ... but we did want to make a conducive environment. That's what it is right now, and we'll see where it goes from here," he said.