The Imagination Catalyst incubator 

The Imagination Catalyst incubator is a one-year experiential incubation program. Our company founders (iCats!), commit to working on their ventures with the aim of launching a for-profit or social enterprise or licensing venture with that year. 

Based on the OCAD University campus in the heart of downtown Toronto, we have particular expertise in supporting the growth of maker-entrepreneurs and design-driven ventures.

Participants accepted into the program are provided with work space plus relevant business education, skills training, one on one personal and business development coaching and, most importantly, access to experienced, accredited pool of investors and advisors who can provide further support, guidance and access to funding. We also offer access to OCAD U studios for prototyping, legal formation and IP/patent process assistance, plus extended student benefits during your IC year.

Who qualifies for the Imagination Catalyst incubator?

You or your startup team may apply to become part of the Imagination Catalyst incubator if your concept, product or service will be ready to launch into the market within the next year.

We will consider outside projects, but priority will be given to OCAD U graduates, alumni or faculty applicants.

We do not advise undergraduate students to apply to the Imagination Catalyst incubator. It would be next to impossible to complete studies AND participate fully in the IC program. That said, undergraduate projects may be considered, but only in exceptional circumstances and with the approval of your faculty and dean.

How to apply

Entrepreneurs interested in joining Imagination Catalyst’s one-year incubation program must submit a complete application. Starting January 2016, applications will be reviewed on a continuous basis. Selected applicants will be invited to an interview.

Please Note: Incomplete applications will not be considered. All submissions will be held in strict confidence. Only the Imagination Catalyst team and their mentors and judges will have access to this information.

Link to Imagination Catalyst Application:

If you have any questions, please email Ahmed Elbedawy, Program Manager -

What kinds of projects are currently in the Imagination Catalyst incubator?

The projects hosted by the Imagination Catalyst incubator include a broad range of enterprises including health systems and services products, consumer products, entertainment and games, environmental design solutions, digital assets, wearable technologies and industrial design business products.

Is the Imagination Catalyst incubator right for your start up?

Many “incubators” have similar services to those listed above; however, the Imagination Catalyst’s incubator program differs in many ways. 

First, as an art and design university, we have “maker”-based start-up enterprise expertise. Contemporary maker entrepreneurs leverage emerging technologies to create, build, design, tinker, modify, hack, invent, or simply make innovative objects which addresses a market opportunity or need.

Second, we are a part of OCAD U, North America’s third largest art and design university and, therefore, we have access to an amazing network of support. The breadth and depth of expertise of our faculty and alumni community in the art, design and broader cultural industries space is second to none. Our practice-based research philosophy means research at this institution is grounded in reality — throughout our approach to teaching, we combine theoretical analysis with the practice of building and constructing.

And, finally, we differ in our approach. We are entrepreneur/inventor centred. We do not ask for rent. We do not take early stage equity (but do hope that if you are successful, you will contribute to the IC in some way in the future). Participants own their IP. Plus, we take the long-term view and will help promote, sell and market your products and services beyond your tenure in the incubator. 

How do we select entrepreneurs and companies for the Imagination Catalyst incubator?

Strength and uniqueness of the concept
Business model
Need for the incubation services of a maker-based, design-driven incubator
Team commitment
Diversity of industries within the cohort

In a competitive intake, companies with more traction, potential for scale or greater need for the services offered by a maker-entrepreneur incubator will be prioritized by our interview panel.