Innovation Cluster Launches Women Breaking Barriers Accelerator Program to Support Women Entrepreneurs in STEM and Social Innovation


The Innovation Cluster has officially launched Women Breaking Barriers, a six-month cohort acceleration program designed specifically for women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and social innovation. The program will allow participants to fast track their companies and will reduce barriers for female founders including the unique opportunity to pitch to angel investors at the end of six months. This program has been made possible by a $75,000 Seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation

Women Breaking Barriers, made possible through this investment, is an important step in increasing the movement of women into STEM fields. Simply put, careers in science, technology, engineering and math are the well-paying jobs of the future. This is a great local initiative which I, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and our government are proud to support,” MPP Dave Smith said. 

Funds will be used to hire professionals, purchase supplies, as well as to operate workshops and events. The overall program will be one year long, consisting of two separate cohorts of up to ten women that will last six months each. The fully virtual program has opened applications for the first cohort August 5, 2020, with a start date of September first. Applications are due August 27, 2020 at noon. 

Participants (aged 18 or older) will have every opportunity to accelerate their company during the program, which includes specific and advanced training sessions, weekly mentorship with advisors, peer-to-peer learning, community networking and more. 

“Our goal with this program is to increase opportunities and improve the support for women entering a career path in STEM and social innovation,” said Rosalea Terry, Marketing Manager and Senior Innovation Specialist with the Innovation Cluster. “After completing the program, these women will leave with the skills and knowledge to achieve success in their startup.” 

The program ends with each participant guaranteed to pitch to the local Peterborough Region Angel Network, which currently has over thirty investors. The group has invested over six million dollars in companies over the years.

“This is also an opportunity to commercialize research. The Innovation Cluster’s partnership with two world class education institutions in the region, Trent University and Fleming College, will ensure a smooth transition into business for the selected companies,” noted Mike Skinner, CEO of the Innovation Cluster. 

Statistics show that only six per cent of tech companies have a female CEO, and only eight per cent of Directors on boards of Canadian tech companies are women. As well, only four per cent of VC funding goes toward women-led companies and founders who are women of colour get less than one per cent of venture capital each year. The Innovation Cluster is working to change their numbers through this groundbreaking new accelerator program. 

The Innovation Cluster is excited to promote the program to female founders across its catchment area, reaching as far north as Haliburton.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded $115 million to 644 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario. 

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Join our information session Thursday, Aug. 20!