Published: January 12th, 2016

TORONTO – Cisco Canada president Bernadette Wightman told CDN there will be no limits placed on the number of partners, projects or special relationships at the newly opened Innovation Centre in downtown Toronto.

The Toronto Innovation Centre is one of nine Cisco facilities around the world and Wightman was on hand along with Toronto Mayor John Tory and Alison Gleason, Cisco’s senior vice president of the Americas, to cut a digital ribbon to officially open the new centre.

Check out this special slide show of the Toronto Innovation Centre.

In the three years that it took to build the Innovation Centre, Wightman, who took over as president of the subsidiary in December of 2014, said she has fielding numerous calls of interest and the centre is intended to be a co-creation facility for the channel, alliance partners, industries, academia, entrepreneurs, and start-ups.

Bernadette Wightman
Bernadette Wightman

“We are currently just using half of this centre now and I would like to make it full. I have no problem asking for more investment to expand,” she said.

The first partnership announced for the Innovation Centre is with TD Bank Group.

Cisco Canada entered into a special relationship with the TD Bank Group where TD will have its own space inside the facility. According to Rick Huijbregts, vice president of Industry Transformation at Cisco Canada, the TD alliance leverages aspects of new workplace and customer experience.

Rick Huijbregts
Rick Huijbregts

“More of these alliances will be coming to the Cisco Innovations Centre,” said Huijbregts who is also responsible for Cisco Canada’s Internet of Everything strategy.

Paul Milkman, senior vice president and CIO of TD, said the bank has an innovation strategy along with a customer first approach. However, Milkman realizes that 9.3 million of its customers bank online and another five million are considered “mobile customers.”

“These customers are also looking for a great customer experience and they do not want to step foot inside a branch. We want to go to were the customers are going. Cisco delivers the Internet and they can help us connect with these people,” Milkman added.

TD’s room inside the Innovation Centre will have a dedicated TD-Cisco team tasked to co-create on objectives such as finding new banking conveniences through the Internet of Things along with reducing energy consumption.

TD will also have access to the other eight Innovation Centres around the world (Barcelona, Berlin, London, Paris, Perth, Rio, Songdo, and Tokyo).

These nine centres each share a five-point strategy:

  1. Cisco must build the products creating its own Intellectual Property (IP);
  2. Acquisitions and direct investments;
  3. Partner for co-creation of solutions with the channel;
  4. Investments from a $2 billion fund; and
  5. Co-develop with a million developers by 2020.

As part of the launch Cisco Canada has made a commitment to give $150 million for Canadian start-ups to spark innovation in Canada. Cisco Canada will be working with venture capital partners such as OMERS Ventures on this matter.

John Ruffolo, CEO of OMERS, said Canada should not bank its future solely on the resources sector and should make bets on innovation. Cisco committing dollars and IP is very valuable to any company we invest in. “We want to be part of that entrepreneur building the rocket ship. We will provide the fuel to make it fly far.”

As for the City of Toronto, Mayor Tory said a facility such as Cisco’s provides confidence for others to invest in the city.

City of Toronto Mayor John Tory with Cisco Americas leader Alison Gleason
City of Toronto Mayor John Tory with Cisco Americas leader Alison Gleason

“This is one of nine of these places in the world and the second one in the Americas. Cisco could have gone to many other cities so I am grateful and proud that its in Toronto,” he said.

Mayor Tory intends to help further along the technology partnership with Cisco and the Communitech in the Kitchener/Waterloo area. “This corridor is real and we need to make it a global powerhouse. We want to make Toronto the city of game changers,” he added.

Read More about the Toronto Innovation Centre and Cisco Canada plan to launch a Women Entrepreneurs’ program