OCAD University launches Imagination Catalyst, led by entrepreneur Steve Billinger

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 6:15pm

*UPDATE: April 26, 2013:
Petra Kassun-Mutch appointed Executive Director of Imagination Catalyst

Learn more about the Imagination Catalyst

(Toronto—February 28, 2012) Ontario's innovation economy gets a major injection of talent and support this week with the announcement of OCAD University's Imagination Catalyst, a student and alumni-centred entrepreneurship and innovation incubator/accelerator designed to aggregate OCAD U's existing innovation, research and commercialization activities.

The Imagination Catalyst is led by Canadian/British designer, technologist and entrepreneur Steve Billinger, with over 20 years experience in digital media, strategy and business development in Canada, the UK and US. He joins OCAD U as Executive Director, Business Development & Innovation this month.

The Imagination Catalyst gears up OCAD University's student innovation through two streams: by placing students and alumni and their inventions in receptor industries and by supporting the efforts of graduating students, recent graduates and faculty members in forming new companies.

The Imagination Catalyst will strengthen and integrate OCAD University's current and future industry collaborations with faculty and students in applied research and commercialization. The Imagination Catalyst will ensure that faculty research reaches appropriate markets.

Steve Billinger brings to the role unparalleled senior experience in both traditional and digital media where he has successfully incubated, launched and marketed new products, services, divisions and companies with the likes of Microsoft (MSN), News Corp (BSkyB), Bell, Cookie Jar Entertainment and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). He is supported by an advisory council of extraordinary leaders from the investment community.

"Through the Imagination Catalyst, students and recent graduates will engage in experiential learning while contributing to productivity, the integration of design, digital media, creative thinking and design capability across key verticals of the Ontario economy," said OCAD U President, Dr. Sara Diamond. "We're fortunate to be able to pair Steve's expertise with our talented and highly motivated students and alumni. Under his guidance, they will be able to hone their entrepreneurial skills while receiving unprecedented access to private sector partners and our expanding mentorship network."

OCAD University's emerging inventors and entrepreneurs are eager to attain support for ongoing innovation and commercialization of their ideas through licensing, work experience or company formation. Strategic companies and investors can connect and gain access to this window on new product ideas and talent. OCAD University's Imagination Catalyst will act as a feeder lane to commercial incubators that can further assist the inventors. Through the Catalyst, OCAD U will make further measurable contributions to economic gain in the forms of GDP and job creation in Ontario and Canada while building strong ties to the university and alumni.

OCAD University (OCAD U): 135 Years of Imagination
OCAD University (www.ocadu.ca) is Canada’s “University of the Imagination.” The university, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians. 


OCAD University's Imagination Catalyst
OCAD University's Imagination Catalyst fosters experiential learning opportunities, creates a vehicle for young entrepreneurs and creative business start-ups, including the acceleration of commercialization ideas from applied academic research, coordinates university-Industry research and development collaborations across key economic drivers in digital media, and provides networking opportunities for entrepreneurs.

It consists of a series of work space hot desks, project offices and digital studio spaces with access to high-speed infrastructure, production, testing and prototyping facilities that form part of the Digital Media Research and Innovation Institute.

The Product Development track provides matchmaking and IP transfer services between OCAD University talent and small and medium enterprises, and Canadian and international strategic companies. The primary role of this stream of the Catalyst is to assist with patenting or copyrighting the product or service, providing brand development advice and prototyping support if needed, then helping to place the product with a company, assisting in the negotiation of IP, resulting in payment to the student or alumni. This will also result in student and alumni hires by companies, helping to meet the Catalyst's job creation quota.

The Company Formation track provides company formation for the inventions and individuals where a start-up is appropriate. Products or services that appear to be substantive innovations that could be the basis of a successful company will be placed in this track, and the incubator will assist with patenting or copyrighting inventions, providing all manner of business formation advice, brand development, business plan development, and prototyping support with assistance from faculty and students. The Catalyst will provide a mentor for the company, help to publicize it, match the company with appropriate angel, super angel or venture capital funds and supervise the development of the company until it is independent. Companies may remain as part of the Imagination Catalyst through stages of development depending on their performance.

The Imagination Catalyst builds on OCAD U's existing capacity by aggregating existing incubator and accelerators - OCAD U's Digital Futures Accelerator, Mobile Experience Innovation Centre, and Design Incubator - under one physical and virtual umbrella, to form a dynamic commercialization and knowledge transfer environment. The Imagination Catalyst integrates OCAD University's strong collaboration with small and medium enterprises and strategic industries, affording unparalleled access to our faculty and student talent. Imagination Catalyst participants will be able to access OCAD University's excellent laboratories, studio facilities and faculty support.

  • OCAD U's Digital Futures Accelerator is aligned with the university's Digital Futures initiative, and supports product development in tangible and wearable computing, embedded systems, games, screen-based media, social media, mobile content, inclusive design products and data visualization.
  • The Mobile Experience Innovation Centre (MEIC) and its incubator form a not-for-profit organization with its own Board of Directors, housed at OCAD University. The MEIC provides support to the Imagination Catalyst for inventions and emerging companies situated in the spectrum of mobile technologies
  • OCAD U's Design Incubator supports all manner of design innovations across a wide range of technologies, grounded in the university's programs in Industrial Design, Environmental Design, Material Art and Design, and multi-platform communication design.

Steve Billinger
In his previous appointment as General Manager, Digital Programming and Business Development at the CBC, Steve Billinger was responsible for all aspects of the growth, revenue and development of CBC's digital programming and services, while fostering business development and partnership opportunities for all CBC network radio and television. He was also responsible for strategic planning (including ventures, mergers and acquisition); production and operations of all CBC's digital programming and services, as well as revenue responsibility for CBC's digital specialty channels and the international sales of all programming and archival material.

He has also provided strategic planning and business and product development consultation to leading corporations internationally, such as TVO, Digeo, BCE, PBS, the BBC and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, as well as government and regulators such as the CRTC and the United Kingdom's Department of Culture's Future Media Inquiry Group and the Independent Television Commission.

Billinger has extensive experience of the media and technology landscape in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, having worked for platform and software/ middleware providers, as well as content originators, media companies and distributors in these countries.

As a writer, producer or director he received a BAFTA nomination for best Children's Documentary, a Prix Europa Nomination and a Recommendation for the Japan Prize. He was awarded the prestigious Royal Television Society Award for Innovation and received an RTS Nomination for an innovative graphic history of the crisis in Bosnia.

Billinger has been an Evaluator/Lead Advisor of business models and deals for projects seeking funding with the Bell New Media Fund, as well as acted as a mentor for start-up technology companies on business and strategic development as part of the Banff Centre's Interactive Project Lab Accelerator program in conjunction with Bell Globemedia's Content Innovation Network, the American Film Institute, Vortex (part of The International Film Festival Rotterdam). He held a similar role with the Ontario Media Development Corporation and the Canadian Film Center's Interactive Project Lab.

He has delivered keynote addresses on digital media at Banff, NextMedia, the Canadian Director's Guild, iMix, the Edinburgh Television Festival, MILIA, the UK Television Show, Periodical Publishers Association, Financial Times Conferences, the Rotterdam Film Festival and the World Summit on Programming for Children. Billinger is also listed in Business Age magazine's Hall of Fame for his contribution to the UK digital market sector. He was also part of the Department of Culture's Future Media Inquiry Group established by the UK Secretary of State.

Finally, Billinger has provided master classes on digital strategy, business and product development to the American Film Institute, PBS, the BBC and the Directors Guild of Canada. He also wrote a regular column on television and digital media for New Media Age in the United Kingdom and Variety in the United States, as well as features on technology for children for Today's Parent magazine.

OCAD  University's Academic Programs
The Imagination Catalyst is possible because of OCAD University's disciplinary and interdisciplinary strength in design, art and digital media learning. OCAD University programs support student learners to become entrepreneurial and research leaders in a future world of design thinking, artistic creativity, ubiquitous digital technology and communication, as well as enabling them to master contemporary creative skills.

OCAD University is home to undergraduate programs in Industrial Design, Environmental Design, Advertising, Material Art and Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Integrated Media, visual arts and the Digital Futures Initiative. Minors, a major, a suite of graduate programs and continuing education offerings are providing learning opportunities in digital art, media and design, and ICT, linking this knowledge to emerging technologies with applications in fields such as art/design and science, sustainability, health and wellness, accessibility, diversity, and global innovation and business development. OCAD University offers graduate programs in Strategic Foresight and Innovation; Digital Media; Inclusive Design; Curatorial and Critical Practice; Interdisciplinary Art, Media and Design; Advertising and Contemporary Art, Design and New Media Art Histories.

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Imagination Catalyst Inquiries:
Petra Kassun-Mutch, Executive Director
416-977-6000 Ext. 4589.

Media Inquiries:
Sarah Mulholland, Media & Communications Officer
416-977-6000 Ext. 327 (mobile Ext. 1327)