Canada has long been a catalyst and trailblazer that fosters forward-thinking collaboration, attracting international business events in the Advanced Manufacturing sector, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the country's GDP. The industry employs 1.7 million Canadians and receives more than $28 billion in new capital annually.
Canada's progressive approach and diversity across robotics, composite manufacturing, internet of things and precise machine learning has positioned it as a global leader in this sector. Cities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Waterloo Region, Toronto and Montréal exemplify Canada's competitive advantage, making it a smart option for gatherings where tours of learning labs, testing sites and academic hubs can be spotlighted.
For example, Ontario's non-profit Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) is leading Canada's Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster initiative, connecting tech providers, researchers government and business networks.Currently, the company is involved in 91 projects worth $350 million and supporting 1,100 jobs. Partners include MARS, Communitech, Mitacs and AeroMontreal. NGen's investment in 19 projects during the pandemic resulted in the development and manufacturing of essential supplies such as test kits, PPE, disinfecting agents and ventilators. And Element AI, based in Montréal and Toronto, recently developed a platform that connects datasets to aid clinical and scientific researchers, along with public health authorities and frontline workers. The company is also working with Mila and InVivo AI by providing its machine-learning knowledge to assist with the outbreak. Their Corona Calculator aids in understanding how the disease progresses.
Here's how seven cities are leveraging their expertise to the benefit of business events in this sector.
Calgary's competitive advantage
Known for its Instagram-worthy views of the Canadian Rockies, Alberta is also a huge draw for business events because of the manufacturing excellence coming out of Calgary, which is among the most cost-competitive cities for drone manufacturing, component manufacturing, communications and navigation equipment R&D and manufacturing.
More than 1,600 businesses employ 40,700 people in this sector, which is supported by several research and academic institutions including the Alberta Center for Advanced MNT Products, Canada's only industry-led product development facility that helps develop advanced technology from proof-of-concept to manufactured product. Other higher-ed establishments include the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Art Smith Aero Centre and School of Manufacturing and Automation, plus University of Calgary's Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering department.
"Calgary's innovation ecosystem and entrepreneurial mindset is driving immense growth in the advanced manufacturing sector, particularly in drone, component and communication and navigation equipment manufacturing," says David Woodward, executive director of meetings and conventions for Tourism Calgary. "And with Calgary's incredible investment of more than $1 billion into events and hospitality, we will soon be the largest convention destination in Western Canada. There is no limit to the success of meeting here in North America's most liveable city."
Prominent industry players include 4Front Robotics, Javelin Technologies Inc., Aero Aviation Inc., Siemens Canada, Westronic Systems and SMART Technologies Inc. Calgary has celebrated many success stories including innovation and global investment in recent years. For example, ACAMP and TELUS collaborated on made-in-Alberta autonomous technologies, while TIME magazine honored Attabotics' automated storage and fulfillment invention with a special mention.
Other innovative local companies like Horizon North Logistics Inc., which offers industrial services and modular construction solutions, have responded to the pandemic by donating supplies such as beds and movable modular structures that can be deployed to ease hospital overcrowding or provide housing to those in need.
Calgary is slated to welcome Unmanned Canada in November 2021 and the Canadian Geotechnical Society GeoCalgary 2022 in October 2022.
Edmonton accelerates innovation
As a leader in advanced manufacturing and a center of excellence in nanotechnology, additive manufacturing and health-related manufacturing, Edmonton outperforms every major city in Canada in manufacturing sales on a per-capita basis. The Edmonton region's advanced manufacturing ecosystem is responsible for nearly 40 percent of Alberta's manufacturing output, employing more than 49,000 workers at 2,332 companies, including Silent Aire, Levven Electronics, Micralyne, MagnetTx and Titan Logix.
Centers of Excellence
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The region's growing advanced manufacturing cluster features the evolution of traditional manufacturing plus the development and implementation of innovative technology, high-tech and automation across multiple sectors, including petrochemicals, agri-tech and alternative energy. Because the region is a foreign trade zone, companies can ship materials and unfinished products to be manufactured, assembled and sold to global markets.
The University of Alberta and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology provide a rich talent pool and expertise in advanced manufacturing to round out speaker programs. The city is also home to the Alberta Centre for Advanced Mircosystems and Nanotechnology Products, InnoTech Alberta and the Bio Processing Innovation Centre.
With its variety of event venues and subject matter experts, plus Canada's largest entertainment district, Edmonton proved the perfect fit for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers EXPO in June 2019.
"With SME's Membership Chapter 370 Northern Lights, along with our Western Manufacturing Technology Show, Edmonton has been an important manufacturing marketplace that SME has supported for many years," says Julie Pike, SME's senior director of Canadian events and event strategy. "Providing 40 percent of Alberta's manufacturing output and with a rapidly growing advanced manufacturing cluster, Edmonton continues to be an important part of our Canadian strategy to support and advance manufacturing and its future workforce."
The city is set to welcome NanoCanada's International Conference 2022 and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering in 2022.
Winnipeg: A prairie giant for advanced manufacturing
Winnipeg is the largest center for transportation manufacturing in North America, with 844 companies in the sector.
"Our city is home to 12 unique research and development facilities and is the largest aerospace manufacturing hub in Western Canada. Innovative companies and a well-connected industry generate opportunities for strong programming and knowledge-sharing for delegates," says Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg. "When you bring an advanced manufacturing event to Winnipeg, you're able to tap into a deep well of expertise to elevate your conference programming and knowledge-sharing opportunities for delegates."
Winnipeg boasts the largest center for transportation manufacturing in North America, and the area is quickly becoming a leader in developing technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The area is home to many OEMs and suppliers, and its manufacturing companies export more than $10.5 billion of goods globally. Strong partnerships between government, academia and private industry have resulted in huge growth for this sector.
“Winnipeg's advanced manufacturing sector is one of the nation's best. Our city is home to 12 unique research and development facilities and is the largest aerospace manufacturing hub in Western Canada."
—Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg
During the pandemic, BOMImed, which makes and distributes airway management, anesthesia, critical care, warming therapy and patient monitoring products, recently teamed up with Brantford, Ontario–based Synergy Mouldworks and Precision ADM in Winnipeg to rapidly manufacture high-quality, cost-effective ventilator breathing circuit components. Price Industries is helping relieve pressure on overwhelmed healthcare facilities thanks to its fan filter units that remove airborne virus droplets in enclosed spaces.
Winnipeg is set to welcome the 2022 LEAN (CME) conference. Planners who bring groups to this city can arrange facility tours at several Winnipeg sites including Red River College's MotiveLab and Composites Model Factory, Cadorath, Precision ADM, the Manitoba Institute for Materials, CentrePort Canada and the University of Manitoba's Applied Mechanics and Design Laboratories.
Waterloo Region: A robotics and automation powerhouse
Home to more than 1,950 manufacturing companies — including Toyota, Christie Digital,
LEONI Elocab and Clearpath Robotics — Waterloo is a true tech hub that represents many sub-sectors such as automotive, aerospace, robotics, plastics and fabricated metals.
With its reputation for technology leadership, the region is one of Canada's fastest-growing talent markets, with close to 57,000 highly skilled people working in its manufacturing industry.
It's also generating the next wave of innovators: Canada's largest engineering school, the University of Waterloo, offers the world's largest co-operative education program, and was recently named "Canada's most innovative university" for the 29th consecutive year. Located on campus, RoboHub is a research, testing and training facility for innovative research on multi-robot and human-robot teams where more than 60 robotic experts partner with academia, research affiliates and industry.
"Waterloo Region is a hub for the brightest minds in engineering. The Region of Waterloo, in conjunction with the university, and many other organizations support ground-breaking research and commercialization efforts specifically in advanced manufacturing," says Mary Wells, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo. "Our research facilities frequently receive requests to partner in tackling industry challenges so we typically host many tours and information sessions. I'm proud of Waterloo's contributions to the sector, particularly during these challenging times."
"The Region of Waterloo, in conjunction with the university, and many other organizations support ground-breaking research and commercialization efforts specifically in advanced manufacturing."
—Mary Wells, dean of the faculty of engineering at the University of Waterloo
Canada's largest cluster of robotics and automation companies are inventing the future in Waterloo, where internationally renowned companies like FLIR and Siemens innovate alongside startups like Deep Trekker and Otto Motors, which are part of a thriving community averaging 15 patents granted per 10,000 people — 11 times the national average.
Some of the region's 150-plus research centers of excellence include the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research, the Centre for Advanced Materials Joining, the Centre for Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, and the world's largest IoT manufacturing space, Catalyst137, which has tenants such as Toyota, Miovision and BorgWarner scaling new ideas.
Several local companies are doing their part to halt the coronavirus' spread: DarwinAI collaborated with the University of Waterloo to launch COVID-Net, an open-source neural network that uses chest X-rays to detect the disease. Automation technology company ATS Automatic Tooling Systems Inc. is doing its part to halt Covid-19's spread by reconfiguring its manufacturing facilities and working with O-Two Medical Technologies to assemble ventilator components. And it's developing an automated bio-decontamination system for hospitals by leveraging the technology from one of its other companies, Comecer, so hospital rooms, masks and equipment can quickly be sterilized.
Toronto: Canada's manufacturing heartland
Canada's largest city and leader in manufacturing research houses a 300,000-strong, tech-oriented workforce in the respective sector. The region has one of the highest densities of engineers and STEM workers in North America – with more than 15,000 people working in the automotive and aerospace hubs. The city boasts Canada's second-largest aerospace cluster, making it a pioneer in automotive and robotics research.
"With one of the highest number of engineers and STEM workers in North America along with Canada's second-largest aerospace cluster, Toronto is home to a thriving Advanced Manufacturing industry," says Tara Gordon, senior vice president of global sales and services for Destination Toronto. "Conferences that choose to meet here benefit from the leading talent, thought-leadership and meaningful conversations that drive this sector."
Some of the manufacturing giants headquartered here include Bombardier Aerospace, Honeywell, Magellan Aerospace Corp., MDA, Northstar Aerospace, UTC Aerospace Systems, MHICA, L3 Technologies and SAFRAN.
Toronto is nestled in a 500-mile corridor of expertise in connected and autonomous vehicle technology, AI, connectivity, cybersecurity, and quantum computing. GM's newest Canadian R&D facility — the Canadian Technical Centre — is just north of Toronto in the booming tech hub of Markham and features cutting-edge test labs for end-to-end software development.
The city's businesses were among the first to react to the pandemic: Ice hockey equipment companies created face shields for healthcare workers, breweries pivoted to produce hand sanitizer, and winter parka companies sewed hospital gowns.
NGen recently funded Myant to manufacture and distribute Skiin, a textile-based wearable health monitoring system that remotely detects and triages Covid-19 symptoms for patients who can't access hospital care.
“With one of the highest number of engineers and STEM workers in North America along with Canada's second-largest aerospace cluster, Toronto is home to a thriving Advanced Manufacturing industry."
—Tara Gordon, senior vice president of global sales and services for Destination Toronto
Major events in Toronto include the Advanced Transportation Manufacturing Summit and the Association for Manufacturing Excellence. For more than 40 years, Toronto has hosted SME's Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS).
"Toronto is an ideal location for SME events; it's a world-class city with access to Canada's leading manufacturing marketplace, and Ontario's diversified economy and manufacturing industries are highly integrated with the $20 trillion NAFTA marketplace," says Julie Pike, director of Canadian events at SME, a non-profit association of professionals, educators and students that promotes the manufacturing industry. "This makes doing business and hosting events in Toronto an easy-to-access experience for our thousands of manufacturing professionals who attend CMTS to source the latest advanced manufacturing technology solutions, connections and education all under one roof. Our local chapter also works with several academic institutions on supporting the next generation of manufacturing talent."
Ottawa: A hub for aerospace, defense and engineering
With the highest concentration of engineers and scientists in Canada — 74,500 — Ottawa is a leading tech innovator in the advanced manufacturing space.
Ottawa's 300 powerhouse companies in the aerospace, engineering and defense sectors include Boeing Canada, ING Robotic Aviation, Mitacs, VLN Advanced technology, Ranovus, Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics, Thales and Raytheon. Planners can access some of the country's best R&D people, private sector thought leaders, plus government and academic speakers.
Some major research and testing facilities perfect for site visits include the NRC's Aerospace division, the David Florida Laboratory, which is the Canadian Space Agency's spacecraft assembly, integration and testing center and the Carleton University Manufacturing Lab.
“Ottawa is a hotbed of innovation and research for both the public and private sectors and one of the reasons why CANSEC has continued to attract over 12,000 national and international registrants year over year."
—Paul Keogh, vice president of operations, Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries
The capital city also has several top-ranked STEM educational institutions, including Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, Algonquin College and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which has hosted several major international conferences. Other important business events held here include CANSEC, Canada's annual global defense and security trade show.
"Ottawa has proven itself to be the ideal host community for our annual defense trade show for over two decades," says Paul Keogh, vice president of operations for the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries. "The city is a hotbed of innovation and research for both the public and private sectors and one of the reasons why CANSEC has continued to attract over 12,000 national and international registrants year over year. The ability to reach a concentrated and highly skilled advanced manufacturing audience, coupled with a professional service sector, means there is an ease of doing business in Ottawa that's hard to find elsewhere."
Ottawa also provides a cosmopolitan, centrally located conference destination with proximity to policymakers and industry giants like B-Con Engineering. This optics manufacturer built systems for NASA's Mars missions and immediately came through during the pandemic by manufacturing face shields for front-line medical workers treating Covid-19 patients.
For memorable off-site receptions, planners can book several national museums, such as the Canadian Museum of History, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada War Museum and the National Arts Centre.
Montréal powers innovative manufacturing
As a world-class center for leading-edge manufacturing driving steady economic growth, Montréal's manufacturing sector boats more than 3,200 companies employing 120,000 people. The city's dynamic startups and research centers are especially active in collaborative robotics, 3D printing, advanced materials and smart textiles.
Six higher-ed institutions are paving the way towards industry 4.0, including Polytechnique Montréal, which offers a Canada research chair in fabricating microsystems and advanced materials — its robotics lab is developing self-adaptive mechanical hands. McGill University has the Institute for Advanced Materials and Concordia University houses the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing. Academic experts abound to round out any event's speakers list.
"We firmly believe that the conference experience can be enriched by including local players and activities at many levels: field trips, keynote speakers, research collaborations, youth engagement, academia, start-up incubators and others."
—Mylène Gagnon, vice president of sales and convention services, Business Events Montréal
Such a dynamic advanced manufacturing sector has made Montréal an ideal destination for major events including the upcoming Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers 2024 Annual Conference and Expo.
"Montréal has long aligned the conferences it hosts with the industries it excels in," says Mylène Gagnon, vice president of sales and convention services for Business Events Montréal. "We firmly believe that the conference experience can be enriched by including local players and activities at many levels: field trips, keynote speakers, research collaborations, youth engagement, academia, start-up incubators and others. As Montréal has been a leader for many years in advanced manufacturing, we believe that conferences from this sector would be right at home in our city."
Montréal is also home to CAE, a global leader that trains the civil aviation, defense and healthcare industries with its simulators. During the pandemic, the company pivoted, manufacturing 100,000 N95 masks for Québec's front-line health professionals and 10,000 life-saving ventilators. CAE created a new product suite that trains physicians to evaluate Covid-19 patients with bedside ultrasounds and offered free webinars and Simulated Clinical Experience to inform caregivers about PPE procedures.
Known as a global hub for AI research, Montréal's strong entrepreneurial spirit supports established and up-and-coming engineering and advanced manufacturing fields. Industry leaders include 3DRPD, ABB, Adfast and Esterline Technologies Corporation.
In Canada, leaders in advanced manufacturing will find support from federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as academia and innovation investors and one of the world's easiest visa regimes. Further simplifying the business process is the pool of destination and sector experts provided by Destination Canada Business Events. The team's specific knowledge of this vast land makes Destination Canada Business Events team an organizer's first stop for tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. To learn about assets and opportunities and arrange research trips and site inspections go to businesseventscanada.ca.
Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada's leadership in sectors including technology, agribusiness, life sciences and more.
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