MaRS is a non-profit innovation centre connecting science, technology and social entrepreneurs with business skills, networks and capital to stimulate innovation and accelerate the creation and growth of successful Canadian enterprises. It was created in 2000 on the site of the old Toronto General Hospital. Image courtesy of MaRS Discovery District.
Innovation incubators play a critical role – they bring together the skills and expertise necessary to help sustain and grow a social enterprise; provide a space to rapidly test out new ideas in practice, with quick assessments; allow fast learning across a community of innovators; and establish clear pathways for scaling up the most promising models. The Young Foundation’s Launchpad has drawn from the experience of many different kinds of incubator and innovation agency to develop a model which seeks to create new ventures and back social entrepreneurs, with a multidisciplinary team, a staged investment model, and an emphasis on linking business expertise with understanding of policy contexts. MaRS in Toronto links a university, hospital, research labs and business incubator alongside a social innovation investment fund. Other examples include the Fuping Development Institute in China and Kaiser Permanente’s Garfield Innovation Center in Oakland in California, which houses a prototyping space, full-scale clinic, and an internal innovation team to create and share tools and best practice.