Startup Spotlight: CoLab

Editor’s Note: This week’s startup spotlight is on CoLab. It is a 2015 McGill Lean LaunchPad graduate and 2016 McGill Dobson Cup winner that is building a collaborative research community.

I’m David, the founder & CEO of CoLab — an online marketplace for contract scientific research and equipment sharing. I earned my bachelors of chemical engineering in 2012 and a year later I started a Master’s degree in the same department here at McGill. My goal was to research climate change technology: even if we were to stop emissions of greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the Earth’s surface air and ocean temperature would continue to rise for decades. In the coming years, we will have to actively reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. I was studying materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that can potentially remove CO2 from the atmosphere using much less energy and at a lower cost than using today’s technology.

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CoLab – Building a collaborative research community

The lab I worked in had a state-of-the-art instrument that measures properties of porous materials like MOFs. I was regularly using the instrument, but couldn’t use it every hour of every day (a lot of grad school is reading scientific literature, writing papers, and TAing). I soon realized that this expensive machine was sitting idle for a lot of its life — couldn’t we collaborate with other groups to make better use of it?

After a few months I realized that students and professors in other departments at McGill were sending samples to be analyzed with the instrument we had in our lab at other universities! I found this outrageous — other McGill researchers were spending their time and money by sending samples outside of McGill while we had the instrument they needed just next door! 

This experience got me thinking: there are hundreds of labs at McGill alone and billions of dollars of equipment in these labs, but we have no way to know who has what equipment! No database exists where people can search for equipment and services at universities across the country. This is a huge problem; it sets research back by months while students and researchers search for the tools they need. Some projects are abandoned altogether. During the McGill Lean Launchpad program I spent months talking to students, professors, and laboratory managers and realized that this lack of information was a huge problem for so many researchers.

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David giving a talk at our most recent Dobson Centre event: Kickstart Innovation and Startup Matchmaking

That is why I built CoLab. With CoLab, students, post-docs, professors and laboratory managers can list their scientific equipment and services online for free, while other students, research professionals and R&D companies can search and pay for these services online. Not only does CoLab accelerate research, it also fosters a more collaborative academic and industrial scientific community. 

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CoLab won 3rd Place in the Innovation Driven Enterprise (IDE) Track of the 2016 McGill Dobson Cup powered by National Bank

CoLab won 3rd place in this year’s McGill Dobson Cup in the Innovation-Driven Enterprise track. The platform has undergone significant alpha testing and a private beta will be available shortly. If you are a research professional or a student and would like to list your scientific services and equipment on CoLab or get an invite to the beta, please visit www.discovercolab.com or contact info@discovercolab.com and help us build a collaborative scientific community.

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Dobson Chronicles

The Dobson Chronicles is the official blog of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship.