Original CITM Article, November 11, 2021
Ten years ago, the Innovation Factory (IF) was established to support entrepreneurs looking to launch, grow, and scale their business. Over time, it became apparent that there was opportunity for transformative change through the advancement of technology and innovation in the transportation sector. To capture this potential, the Province of Ontario created the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN), including the creation of six Regional Technology Development Sites (RTDS). RTDS’s support small and medium enterprises delivering innovation and ingenuity around smart mobility and connected, automated, and autonomous transportation. Hamilton was one of the six selected sites and four years ago, the Centre for Integrated Transportation and Mobility (CITM) opened its doors.
Since then, CITM has evolved into a comprehensive set of programs and resources to support entrepreneurs seeking to develop, test, validate, and commercialize connected, automated and autonomous transportation and smart mobility products and technologies. As a CITM business client, innovators have access to a full complement of programs, resources, training, and technology offered by both the Innovation Factory and CITM. Iris Inc. exemplifies the type of organization that innovation centres and accelerators want to work with because of its determination to succeed by taking full advantage of all that is available to support a growing company’s goals and objectives.
Iris Inc. has undergone a whirlwind of activity and success. In the last few months alone, Iris was named the winner of InfraChallenge, a global infrastructure competition, beating out competitors from 30 other countries; named recipient of a 2021 Excellence in Innovation and Technology award, identified and implemented multiple smart city technology projects with municipalities throughout Ontario; and most recently, named ‘Best-in-Class CleanTech for Transportation’ by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association.
Arriving in Canada in 2017, Iris Co-founder and CEO Emil Sylvester Ramos anticipated a country that was very different from the one he left behind, envisioning a well maintained road infrastructure and smooth driving. He was surprised when his first job here revealed conditions that were entirely different. In 2018, Emil and Co-founder and CAO David Keaney formed Iris Inc. – a data collection and reporting solution providing municipalities the ability to automate work processes, increase cost efficiencies, and improve responsiveness, ultimately achieving enhanced levels of service. And the rest is history.
Iris began its journey in 2019, entering Innovation Factory’s Lions Lair, a pitch competition providing entrepreneurs with resources and training to build successful business ventures. They won. An introduction to the CITM team soon followed, resulting in additional collaborations with AVIN and sister RTDS, Communitech. Most recently, CITM facilitated an introduction between Iris and the City of Hamilton, resulting in a waste management pilot project.
According to Ramos, “Our company has received tremendous support from the Innovation Factory and subsequently CITM, especially with the ecosystem that they continue to build and nurture. Iris is the company it is as a direct result of training they provided; the resources they made available; and the relationships CITM has facilitated, allowing us to grow and scale to the point where we can now have an impact globally.”
Richard Dunda, Director of CITM noted, “Iris is an excellent example of the type of innovator we work with at CITM. They identified a market need, received training and support to develop their product, and by utilizing our ecosystem and the relationships CITM has, have grown and evolved to the point where they are looking to scale their original technology solution to take advantage of additional market and growth opportunities. The relationships that we will continue to bring to the table to support clients such as Iris is exciting given the momentum they have, and changes happening across the autonomous vehicle and smart mobility sector.”