The Vibela team sitting around a conference table in a virtual work environment.

Innovation Factory embracing the future of work with VirBELA virtual reality platform

Online team suite will support all training and coaching for 2020 LiONS LAIR pitch competition finalists

Hamilton, Ont., April 28, 2020 – The coronavirus pandemic is forcing all kinds of enterprises to rethink how they do business, and Hamilton’s Innovation Factory is embracing the new reality with cutting-edge virtual reality technology that takes remote working, collaboration and learning to a whole new level.

Innovation Factory has chosen the virtual reality company VirBELA to provide an interactive virtual office environment where staff, clients and industry partners can come together to meet, network and work together like never before — no matter where they are.

“Our primary role as a regional innovation centre is to be a connector — of people, resources and expertise,” said David Carter, Innovation Factory’s Executive Director. “That mission continues despite the challenges of COVID-19, so we’re adapting and finding new ways to drive innovation and add value to the Hamilton region’s economy. Hosting large events, providing face-to-face mentoring and networking opportunities — that’s all gone now and it probably won’t be back any time soon. We’re embracing the future, and the VirBELA platform allows us to continue doing what we do in a new and exciting way.”

Like many organizations, Innovation Factory has been working remotely for weeks. In March, a last-minute pivot turned the final round of the annual Synapse Life Science Pitch Competition into a virtual event. The Synapse Competition was a success, but the experience revealed the shortcomings of standard video conferencing and other collaboration platforms. So the Innovation Factory team began searching for alternatives.

Similar to multiplayer gaming platforms like Second Life, VirBELA invites participants to create an avatar that they use to navigate the online world and interact with others. No specialized equipment or heavy headsets required — any computer with a microphone, keyboard and an internet connection can access the environment.

“Tools like Skype and Zoom are great but they don’t give you that sense of place, of really being there with your colleagues,” said Carter. “Our VirBELA team suite provides an immersive 3D environment that includes offices, common areas and breakout spaces where we can mingle or walk up to a co-worker for a quick chat. We can upload and share files, display presentations on a virtual whiteboard, and we have access to a boardroom and conference hall for larger meetings and events. It’s just like being at the office, without actually going there.”

Using the VirBELA platform positions Innovation Factory on the leading edge of the remote working revolution along with organizations like Singularity University, which uses VirBELA to host events, and  Stanford University, which created an entire virtual campus for its Graduate School of Business.

“Our goal is to scale up from using the platform to support our day-to-day activities to becoming Hamilton’s go-to destination for large-scale virtual business learning, conferences and networking events,” said Carter. “The finalists for our LiONS LAIR Pitch Competition will participate in training and workshops in our new virtual platform.”

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020, Lions Lair is Hamilton’s premier pitch competition that gives up-and-coming entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their business to a panel of Hamilton’s top business experts and investors. This year’s competition, “LiONS LAIR Pitch Madness” takes place in September and will be delivered as a virtual bracket-style tournament with four days of head-to-head pitch competition. Over the summer, all training, networking, coaching and support for the cohort will be provided using Innovation Factory’s virtual office platform.

“Each year, LiONS LAIR showcases talented leaders who will drive innovation and sustain Hamilton’s prosperity for future generations,” said Carter. “We’re very excited to put our virtual office platform to the test by supporting the LiONS LAIR innovators at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey.”

The LiONS LAIR Pitch Madness is scheduled to take place Sept. 21-24, 2020. Applications are open now until May 17. For more information, visit the website or click here to apply.


For more information, contact:
Jennifer Gauvreau, Manager, Marketing & Events
Innovation Factory

[email protected]

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