The DMZ at Ryerson University, in partnership with Innovation Birmingham, have announced the winners of the Next Big Idea Contest — an innovation competition for startups based in Ontario, Canada, and Greater Birmingham, U.K. Sponsored by NatWest and Gowling WLG, the competition enables the winning tech entrepreneurs to spend two weeks abroad incubating their companies, scaling up internationally, meeting with expert advisors and exploring ways to expand their businesses on a global scale. The Ontario-based winners of the competition include Sampler and Komodo OpenLab. Sampler is an online sampling management and analytics platform designed to help companies distribute their product samples more effectively through targeted digital sampling programs. Komodo OpenLab offers inclusive technologies, open software and hardware that facilitate the daily lives of people with disabilities. The Birmingham-based winners are Hopper HQ and Breaking Free Group. Hopper HQ is the first fully automated scheduling tool for Instagram. The platform enables individuals, brands and agencies to schedule content for a specific date and time, similar to popular applications such as Hootsuite and Buffer. Breaking Free Group is a healthcare platform that targets addictive behaviours by addressing the underlying psychological and lifestyle issues that drive substance misuse and provides accessible intervention. “Hosting these entrepreneurs from Birmingham at the DMZ is a step in the right direction to creating global business opportunities for both Birmingham startups and resident startups at the DMZ,” said Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director of the DMZ. “We are pleased to be working with Innovation Birmingham on such an important initiative, and are excited to welcome Birmingham startups into Toronto’s thriving startup ecosystem.” Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO at Innovation Birmingham said: “The winners of The Next Big Idea Contest have created innovative technologies that show great potential. With continued guidance and support from Innovation Birmingham, the DMZ and initiatives like The Next Big Idea Contest, the selected startups will be able to utilize a wide range of resources that will enable them to scale their business globally, ensuring continued growth and success.” The contest follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Ryerson University and Innovation Birmingham in 2015, which recognized the need to provide global opportunities to local startup communities. -30- About the DMZ The DMZ is one of Canada’s largest business incubators. The top-ranked university incubator in North America and third in the world, the DMZ is a hub of innovation, collaboration and commercialization. Since opening in April 2010, the DMZ and Ryerson Futures Inc.-its affiliated accelerator program-have incubated and accelerated 230 startups, which have collectively raised more than $139 million in funding and fostered more than 2,090 jobs. For more information about the DMZ, visit www.ryerson.ca/dmz About Innovation Birmingham The Innovation Birmingham Campus is actively looking to work with and bring together the public and private sectors, creating interfaces for people with ideas, people with technologies, people with expertise and experience, and people with money, to drive collaboration, thereby promoting innovation. The Innovation Birmingham Campus is a thriving cluster of tech companies, being home to 135 companies, with specialisms including; coding, software, digital gaming and low carbon technologies. An active incubation offering in the Entrepreneurs for the Future centre, EU-funded projects and a major programme of events, visiting expert sessions and access to finance all catalyse a dynamic community that is engaged with the city. The Campus is a launching an innovative new incubator, Serendip that partners start-ups with national corporate partners. The available opportunities for start-ups and SMEs creates the best environment for growth, with over 120 ventures established in the past six years.