TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - November 11, 2015) - The DMZ at Ryerson University, in partnership with Innovation Birmingham, launch the Next Big Idea Contest -- an innovation competition for startups based in Ontario, Canada, and Greater Birmingham, U.K.

Sponsored by NatWest and Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, the competition enables winning tech entrepreneurs to spend two weeks abroad in the sister incubation centre scaling up internationally, meeting with expert advisors and scoping out ways to expand their businesses on a global scale.

The launch of the contest follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Ryerson University and Innovation Birmingham earlier this year, providing global opportunities to startup communities.

"The DMZ offers startups tools and an environment for success, including an unparalleled network to grow both in Canada and abroad," said Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University. "We are very excited to launch this contest with Innovation Birmingham, giving young innovators an opportunity to make valuable connections world-wide and to expand their business on a global scale."

Applicants from Ontario and Greater Birmingham will be assessed on innovative use of technology, market validation and potential for rapid growth and international expansion.

"When visiting Toronto's DMZ, it was evident just how similar the ethos, community and outputs were to the Innovation Birmingham Campus. The Next Big Idea Contest will present invaluable opportunities for early stage tech businesses with high growth potential," said Dr. David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham. "With the help and guidance of the teams of advisors and the peer networks in Toronto and Birmingham, the winning entrepreneurs will be able to expand on a global scale. The launch of this Contest is the first step in what we believe will be a very productive collaboration, benefitting early stage tech businesses."

Ontario and Greater Birmingham have both achieved major gains in economic output, educational achievements, and major foreign investment projects. Both offer exciting business opportunities within vibrant, diverse communities.

Birmingham is home to over 34,000 companies, including almost 700 international firms that contribute to it being the fastest growing city in the U.K. With the highest economic output in the country, entrepreneurs in Greater Birmingham benefit from a wide range of resources such as investment opportunities, talent, and leading global businesses to help launch a successful startup.

Ontario is the engine of Canada's IT industry. It has the second largest IT industry in North America after California, with 19,000 companies and 250,000 IT workers. Home to two of the largest startup ecosystems in the world, Toronto and Waterloo, Ontario supports a thriving entrepreneurial environment. Ontario is also a research and development leader, with seven of the 10 largest tech companies in the world conducting R&D in the province.

Overlooking the heart of downtown Toronto, the DMZ is a hub of innovation and collaboration that connects startups with customers, advisors, influencers and each other as part of a community that supports and fosters disruptive technologies.

"We are delighted to be sponsoring the Next Big Idea Contest, which is a fantastic opportunity for tech startups in Greater Birmingham to learn more about global opportunities," said Andy Lee, NatWest's Regional Enterprise Manager for the Midlands and East of England. "We commissioned a report last year on the opportunities and barriers for U.K. SMEs around exporting which found that, while more than 80 per cent of them recognized its importance to the economy, only a quarter saw it as a key part of their future. We work hard to help our customers grow through selling to new markets and we welcome the opportunity to be a part of a contest which shares our aims."

The contest is open to tech startups based in Ontario and Greater Birmingham. For contest eligibility and to apply, visit

About the DMZ
The DMZ is one of Canada's largest business incubators. The top-ranked university incubator in North America and fifth in the world, the DMZ is a hub of innovation, collaboration and commercialization. Since opening in April 2010, the DMZ and Ryerson Futures Inc.-its affiliated accelerator program-have incubated and accelerated 219 startups, which have collectively raised more than $120 million in funding and fostered more than 1,964 jobs. For more information about the DMZ, visit

About Innovation Birmingham
The Innovation Birmingham Campus is a thriving cluster of tech companies. The Campus is home to 130 companies, with specialisms including coding, software, digital gaming and low carbon technologies. An active incubation offering in the Entrepreneurs for the Future centre, EU-funded projects and a major programme of events, visiting expert sessions and access to finance all catalyse a dynamic community that is engaged with the city. The available opportunities for start-ups and SMEs creates the best environment for growth, with over 115 ventures established in the past five years.

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Contact Information:

Dasha Pasiy
The DMZ at Ryerson University
416-979-5000, ext. 2863

Charlotte Crossley
Innovation Birmingham
+44 (0) 121 250 3522