Clearpath Robotics, a global leader in unmanned vehicle robotics research and development, is dedicated to automating the world’s dullest, dirtiest, and deadliest jobs. The company works with over 350 leading roboticists throughout 35 countries worldwide in academic, corporate and military environments.
This year, the Kitchener business has been selected as a finalist for the Ontario Innovator Award at the Ontario Business Achievement Awards (OBAAs), which will be held on November 20th in Toronto. Sponsored by the Government of Ontario, this award goes a business whose innovations are making the greatest impact in their industry and community.
Their story begins when a small team of Mechatronics Engineering students at the University of Waterloo worked to create robots that cleared landmines in war torn countries. Through this initial experience, they realized that there was a demand for autonomous, out-of-the-box, affordable robotic solutions. They pivoted from focusing on mine clearance to education and research, and shortly after, received their first order.
By 2009, Clearpath Robotics was officially founded and production began on robust and reliable robotic platforms for rapid prototyping–in other words, they developed mobile robotic bases that researchers could build from to assist their research needs, giving them potential to innovate robotic vehicles such as the next generation Mars Rover.
In only four short years, Clearpath has grown from a four-person garage project, to a multi-million dollar organization that works with leaders in the research world.
Today, Clearpath has become a leader in the unmanned vehicle robotics industry for research and development with clients including the Canadian Space Agency, the Department of National Defence, MIT and Carnegie Mellon University.
The OCC is pleased to recognize this great Ontario business. Book your table today and find out which Ontario companies will shine in the 2013 OBAA spotlight.
We interviewed Clearpath Robotics’ Meghan Hennessey about what it takes to be a game changing business in today’s economy.
Tell us about why you deserve to win an OBAA?
To win an OBAA would be a huge accomplishment and an honor! The OBAAs represent innovation, market expansion and corporate citizenship, and Clearpath Robotics envelops all of those attributes in their everyday practice. In four years, the Company has grown from a four-person garage project, to a multi-million dollar organization. We work with leaders in the research world and contribute to, and are proud supporter of, the technology sector within Ontario.
What advice do you have for businesses that want to succeed in Ontario?
Our advice for businesses to succeed in Ontario is to build a network with community entities that are known for supporting Ontario business, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Ontario Centre of Excellence, the Accelerator Centre, etc. These types of entities can introduce you to a fantastic network of people and other businesses that can help you develop rapport with government officials, such as Ministers and Councillors, and they can also provide knowledge of grant programs or business development and commercialization programs.
In general, the best entrepreneurial advice the co-founders received was during the early years of the start-up. An advisor coached the team to focus strictly on finding a product/market fit – everything else in the start-up stage is “noise”. This tip is one that the founders still hold true today and advise other Companies to practice.
In your experience, what are the key success factors for organizations in your industry?
We work in the industry of robotics and automation, but the key factors that influence the success of our organization are common denominators with businesses in other industries as well: people, knowledge and innovation.
The people on your team are the heart of the organization. We work with people who have multi-disciplinary skills, you are experts in their field, who are self-driven and passionate about what we do.
As for knowledge, we need to fully understand the industry, trends in robotics and have full visibility of our market. One of the ways we do this, is to maintain very close relationships with all of our customers and take their feedback seriously. Innovation is of course necessary for success, especially as robotics becomes more predominant in mainstream markets. We are constantly innovating and creating new iterations of existing products to ensure we stay on the leading edge of robotic platforms and services.
How does Clearpath Robotics improve the everyday life of Ontarians?
Clearpath’s robotic platforms are primarily utilized in the research and development sectors in academia, environmental, industrial, military and agriculture. Therefore, the applications span from next-generation Mars Rover prototypes to automated mining tractors to greenhouse gas detection in landfills. Some of the top universities in Ontario are using our platforms for their research initiatives include Queen’s University, University of Toronto, and York University.
From within the Company, Clearpath Robotics has grown rapidly over the last four years and is contributing to the economic impact of Ontario by providing secure jobs and robotic platforms that will advance robotic automation applications in Canada, and Ontario.
In five years from now, where do you envision Clearpath Robotics?
Well, we can’t give away all of our secrets, but we can say that Clearpath Robotics is growing and we have a lot of exciting things lined up.