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Scitech | I’d like my 3D printers free, thanks

District 3 helps accessibilize expensive tech

Ever had an innovative idea for something you wanted to build, but didn’t know how, or didn’t have the high-tech equipment to do it?

Enter District 3 Innovation Centre, a business incubator based out of Concordia University’s downtown campus. The centre aims to help people with startup ideas turn their dreams into a reality. The centre possesses a number of high-tech devices, such as 3D printers and laser cutters, and offers seed funding to help entrepreneurs focus on prototyping, providing an opportunities for specialized support in the form of peer-to-peer coaching. It also aims to increase accessibility to science and technology by offering services regardless of age, educational background, profession, or prior experience.

District 3 has been garnering increased publicity for its work in recent months, and just received a $1 million donation from Montreal philanthropists André Desmarais and France Chrétien Desmarais in September.
Noor El Bawab, District 3 Communications Manager, explained the vision behind the centre in an email to The Daily.

“Technology and access to knowledge are being democratized and shared at hyperspeed thanks to the internet and newer innovations. […] District 3 allows people to mix and interact with each other on a daily basis, using technology and the passion for innovation as the common language.”

El Bawab said the lab emerged from the recognition that there is a resource gap that needs to be filled. The lab attempts to foster a community of innovators and entrepreneurs, and allows makers to mingle and exchange ideas.

“Technology and access to knowledge are being democratized and shared at hyperspeed thanks to the internet and newer innovations. […] District 3 allows people to mix and interact with each other on a daily basis, using technology and the passion for innovation as the common language.”

District 3 also offers an opportunity for alternative education, El Bawab said, as it “allows for the education system to persist under a very rapidly changing environment. It allows for testing and experimenting with new technologies on a daily basis, and exposing people to new modes of learning without ignoring the traditional educational route.”

District 3 has helped launch more than forty startups since its inception, and they work in areas that range from video game production to graphic design to the culinary arts. Between time-effective to interactive to just plain strange creations, there is certainly no shortage of ideas within Montreal’s entrepreneurial community.

Tailor2Go specializes in customized outerwear: a mobile, solar-powered truck brings a 3D scanner to the customer’s location, where they are scanned for precise measurements. Customers can feel sample fabrics and design articles of clothing which are then packed and delivered within three weeks.

Another startup that Dirict 3 helped launch is AdviseAuto, which connects your car’s computer to a 3G network, allowing your car dealership to monitor and store information such as mileage, vehicle identification number, and more, so that drivers don’t have to be the ones remembering when their next oil change should be.

Notetracks, another startup, allows musicians to comment on each other’s work; it allows users to annotate the track’s audio timeline with text and drawings. The presentation of notes is then displayed along an audio waveform.
Other ventures include apps and social platforms that connect artists and designers with low-cost rental space, enable users to buy secondhand products from friends of friends, help users pronounce a person’s name as they would in their own native language, or see in 3D whether furniture and home decor items sold online will fit in their homes.

Reiterating District 3’s strong emphasis on accessibility, El Bawab noted, “It’s open to everyone in Montreal, from any university and any educational background. The only condition is to be a curious person willing to learn and share with the people around you.”

­— With files from Andrea Horqque


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