Despite the current market’s retrofit electrified hardware, conventional urban mobility products still have a long way to go to meet urban needs. Today’s communities need innovative and expandable hardware that opens more opportunities for safer, cleaner, smarter transportation methods.
Enter Intelligent Motion Canada Inc., an Oshawa-based startup whose electric vehicle hardware platform is reinventing micro-vehicle architecture and electric motors for “green” transportation devices like e-bikes, scooters, mopeds and even autonomous robots. For example, Intelligent Motion is developing a compact e-bike frame with sensors that detect frontal collision hazards. These sensors then warn the rider through a comprehensive dashboard, simultaneously decreasing the motor power and reducing the speed. The startup is also developing an in-wheel hub motor made of high-density winding geometry with a cooling design for better efficiency.
Intelligent Motion was founded in Hong Kong in 2020, and in 2021, Co-founder and CEO Alan Tam launched Intelligent Motion Canada Inc. for expansion into North America. Tam is no stranger to transportation hardware and design. His knowledge and experience have taken him across the globe, from Australia and Germany to Hong Kong and now Canada. Armed with a Bachelor of Industrial Design from Monash University and a Master of Arts in Transportation Design from Pforzheim University, this designer’s expertise in designing specialized automotive and transportation products led him to work with companies like Volkswagen Group, BMW Group and multiple electric vehicle startups in Hong Kong before founding Intelligent Motion.
Launching his startup in Canada was a significant endeavour Tam knew he couldn’t take on alone.
“We needed more knowledge of how to run a new company in Canada,” Tam says from his co-working space at Spark Centre in Oshawa, Ont. “We also lacked local business connections. I first heard of Spark Centre from my immigration lawyer, who introduced Spark Centre as a designated incubator for the federal Start-Up Visa program.”
The Start-Up Visa (SUV) program is a Canadian program through which international entrepreneurs in high-growth sectors can relocate, launch and scale their businesses in Canada. It was just what Intelligent Motion needed to launch in Canada, and Spark Centre was front and centre to help make it happen. Tam arrived in Canada in August 2022 and joined Spark Centre as a resident client just one month later.
“Spark Centre was integral for Intelligent Motion even before I landed in Canada from overseas.” Tam explains, “Spark Centre guided me through registering the company in Canada and living here. Once I arrived, Spark Centre provided me with a dedicated co-working space and desk rental and continued to help kickstart the business with guidance in marketing, accounting, legal services and more.”
Spark Centre also introduced Intelligent Motion to the Durham Regional Technology Development Site (Durham RTDS), a collective of support for startups and SMEs with innovation in electric and connected vehicles, smart mobility and smart community solutions. Led by Spark Centre and comprised of Durham Region, Durham College and Ontario Tech University, Durham RTDS provides an ecosystem of R&D and testing facilities, innovation centres, post-secondary institutions, municipalities and regional partners to develop and test these innovations in real-world environments and advance them to commercialization and adoption.
“Our business is micro-mobility research and development, which is in line with the transportation and mobility focus of Durham RTDS.” says Tam, “We’re still in the early stages, but we aim to eventually begin a Durham RTDS project in collaboration with other startups and local companies.”
Intelligent Motion has been making strides since its launch in Canada. The startup participated in ENVO Drive System’s international micro-mobility design contest in Vancouver, British Columbia. This contest introduced Tam to numerous Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in micro-mobility and allowed him to showcase Intelligent Motion’s creativity and design capability, and it didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, Tam won first prize in the contest. Back home in Durham Region, Intelligent Motion continues working on its electric vehicle hardware platform. It has connected with multiple local electric micro-mobility companies to gain feedback on its products and business roadmap. The startup is also seeking collaborations with companies with micro-mobility technologies to co-develop and enhance their products.
Looking back on launching a business in a foreign country (and moving to that country), Tam had this advice for fellow international entrepreneurs looking to establish their business in Canada:
“The time to adapt to a new environment and establish a business in Canada could take longer than expected. Surround yourself with supportive resources and talk with other successful Canadian companies because most have gone down the same path as international entrepreneurs before scaling in Canada.”