Innovation Cluster and City of Kawartha Lakes Pilot Incubator Project Brings Needed Programming to Kawartha Lakes Amidst Pandemic

With the support of Kawartha Lakes Community Futures Development Corporation through the Rural Innovation Initiative Eastern Ontario (RIIEO), a project funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the piloted incubator succeeded in its programming and client attraction goals. The pilot project is an extension of the City’s programs to provide specialized support for high growth and technology based businesses.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic arriving only a month after the incubator’s launch, the Innovation Cluster was able to pivot its programming virtually, maintaining the support available to companies. The Innovation Cluster is now supporting 12 innovative startup companies in Kawartha Lakes, including mobile apps, aviation, agriculture technology, cybersecurity solutions and more are being built by companies in the City of Kawartha Lakes with world-class support from the Innovation Cluster. 

“Offering our notable network, incubation programs and services to the City of Kawartha Lakes could not have come at a better time,” says John Gillis, President of the Innovation Cluster. “COVID-19 has forced businesses to innovate while also creating opportunities for new startups to emerge.”

The pilot project has seen an increase in the initial numbers set forth in February and the innovative companies have further strengthened in the area. In response to the pandemic, the Innovation Cluster continued to work with clients one-on-one virtually via video conference, hold a multitude of pressing workshops, distribute urgent information on financing and grants, provide essential connections and introduced a Client Portal for startup clients to access private workshops, resources and more. 

Mayor Letham commented, “The incubator pilot has been successful over the last year without a doubt. By assisting a dozen startups from the high tech/innovation sector to flourish here in Kawartha Lakes, the Innovation Cluster is working toward Council’s priority for a vibrant and growing economy.”

Workshops and events continued to be offered virtually and included highlights such as Business Digitization and Building an App, Megatrends of the New Normal, Marketing and Selling During COVID-19, Intellectual Property During COVID-19 and more. Since March, the Innovation Cluster has delivered 28 virtual events with over 2000 attendees. 

Companies working within Kawartha Lakes were able to pivot when the pandemic hit in March. In addition to moving virtually for Innovation Cluster support, the companies moved fast on their business models. Dan Kitchen, founder of Make Stuff Move, created over 160,000 buttons since April out of his Kawartha Lakes garage which were shipped across Canada. Company Netmechanics, which provides cyber security services, became even more essential as businesses were turning to ecommerce. The company also held an awareness workshop for fellow companies within the Innovation Cluster. Mamasoup, a Kawartha Lakes company that provides a mobile app for mothers to connect, stayed relevant as in-person contact decreased throughout the year.

Another notable innovation coming from Kawartha Lakes is Horizon Aircraft. This innovative company is designing a revolutionary electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft that incorporates patent-pending technology representing an evolutionary leap over current designs. They are currently working on a 1/6th scale prototype that will be completed early next year and have made significant progress towards their full-scale design that will be introduced in late 2022.

The dynamic programming for companies has included network connections, funding, investment and business opportunities, workshops, seminars, as well as marketing and commercialization support.

Media Contact:

Cheri Davidson
Manager of Communications, Advertising and Marketing
City of Kawartha Lakes
705-324-9411 extension 1355

Rachel Stark
Communications Coordinator
Innovation Cluster
(705) 927-8197

About the Pilot Project

The incubator officially launched on February 11, 2020 at 180 Kent St. W. Lindsay. Partners, supporters, and the public joined together for speeches, a ribbon cutting, and a tour of the space. Speakers included Mayor Andy Letham, John Gillis, President of the Innovation Cluster, MPP Laurie Scott, MP Jamie Schmale and Jil Quast, Chair CFDC.

About the Innovation Cluster

The Innovation Cluster is a not-for-profit organization that drives innovative, determined entrepreneurs in the formation and growth of their technology-based companies. Supporting four key sectors, agtech, digital, healthcare and with a strong focus on cleantech, the Innovation Cluster’s dynamic programming and mentoring ensures startups find their best path to market. The Innovation Cluster operates The Cube, Peterborough’s two full-service incubators located in downtown Peterborough and at Trent University.

Core Funding is provided by The City of Peterborough, Trent University, Fleming College, Peterborough Region Angel Network and Peterborough Utilities Group. Visit 

Quote Bank:

Mamasoup – Joanne Ilaqua

The Innovation Cluster has been crucial to the success of Mamasoup. The support and guidance provided by the sponsors, knowledge partners, staff and other startups make me a stronger entrepreneur.

NetMechanics – Graeme Barrie

The Innovation Cluster has been a great resource by supporting me through business planning, financial forecasting and marketing. It also gives me the opportunity to work alongside other startups and share information and help each other out. It is a community of like-minded and energetic entrepreneurs. I started my business in the City of Kawartha Lakes and having the opportunity to work here in the environment that the Innovation Cluster is a huge benefit in helping my business launch and reach new markets, while being based in a beautiful area of the Province.

Horizon Aircraft – Brandon Robinson

The vision of John Gillis to establish the Lindsay Innovation Cluster has been inspirational. As a local high tech aerospace company building an innovative electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft prototype, we are motivated by the high quality support structure that his team offers. It speaks to a vibrant ecosystem and the result will be a better economic future for the local area and for Canada in general.


Incubator – Business incubation programs are often sponsored by private companies or municipal entities and public institutions. Their goal is to help create and grow young businesses by providing them with necessary support, financial and technical services. There are approximately 900 business incubators nationwide, according to the National Business Incubation Association.

Incubators provide numerous benefits to owners of startup businesses. Their office and manufacturing space is offered at below-market rates or for free, and their staff supplies advice and much-needed expertise in developing business and marketing plans as well as helping to fund fledgling businesses.

Companies typically spend an average of two years in a business incubator until they are able to graduate and accelerate their company.