Canada’s Tech Sector Powers International Events

Major organizations and associations are plugging in to Canada’s red-hot technology industry to enhance meetings and conferences.

Experts in Excellence
Experts in Excellence
Destination Canada Business Events' specific knowledge of this vast land makes this team a first stop for executives and organizers focused on sustainability, tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. 

This year, the Canadian technology sector has exploded from coast to coast, and it’s on track to surpass the record for venture capital raised in previous years. The country’s innovative industries, depth of talent and pioneering research hubs all contribute to its supreme value proposition for major meetings and conventions.

Canada’s reputation as an inclusive, diverse and driven industry leader, combined with its natural beauty and vibrant urban settings have positioned the country on planners’ short lists. In cities like Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Waterloo Region, prominent sectors include AI in healthcare, gaming and esports, AR/VR and fintech, making these destinations excellent spots to host tech-focused events.

Here’s a look at four cities with world-class talent, research facilities and game-changing companies in the technology sector, all ideal for groups seeking a tech-forward setting for their gathering.

Vancouver: A VR/AR powerhouse plugged into top talent

Home to Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, Vancouver is also the second-largest VR/AR ecosystem in the world, with more than 300 companies working in this space.
Home to Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, Vancouver is also the second-largest VR/AR ecosystem in the world, with more than 300 companies working in this space. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Hailed as “the new tech hub” by Bloomberg Businessweek due to its world-class talent, industry know-how and breathtaking scenery, Vancouver is a major global technology player, attracting investment and groups worldwide who come here seeking its trailblazing expertise in fields like digital media and virtual and augmented reality (AR). British Columbia’s tech sector includes more than 10,000 companies generating some $23 billion and employing 100,000 people, mostly in Vancouver. Major players include Microsoft, Apple, Cisco Systems, Samsung, TELUS, Slack and Dwave. Amazon’s recent Vancouver expansion generated 3,000 high-tech positions, and in 2020, Mastercard opened its new Intelligence and Cyber Centre here. 

Centers of Excellence
Centers of Excellence
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, natural resources and more.

Home to Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, Vancouver is also the second-largest VR/AR ecosystem in the world, with more than 300 companies working in this space. 

Some of Canada’s best post-secondary schools for AI and software development are in Vancouver, such as University of British Columbia — ranked the No. 2 tech school in the country and holding 50 Canadian research chairs within the tech industry. Developer boot camps like Lighthouse Labs, BrainStation, RED Academy and CodeCore offer specialized technical and design training to some of the world’s brightest minds. 

In Vancouver’s close-knit, compact tech community, companies are encouraged to work collaboratively alongside thought leaders and investors, fostering important relationships with supportive partners like Innovate BC, Launch Academy, Creative Destruction Lab West and many more. This entrepreneurial spirit leads to exciting success stories, such as the world’s first heart valve-replacement surgery that used the Microsoft HoloLens in a real-time, extended reality platform developed by Medtronic Canada, which has an office in Vancouver. 

“The Vancouver Hotel Destination Association and Tourism Vancouver have been incredible in supporting our efforts to attract speakers as well as offering event support like business development and marketing for the VR/AR Global Summit."
—Anne-Marie Enns, founder of Pulledin Productions

The leading-edge VR/AR Global Summit has hosted global thought leaders in Vancouver for several years because the city is a perfect fit, says the event’s executive producer, Anne-Marie Enns, founder of Pulledin Productions.

“The Vancouver Hotel Destination Association and Tourism Vancouver have been incredible in supporting our efforts to attract speakers as well as offering event support like business development and marketing for the Summit,” says Enns. “We also work with Creative BC, Global Affairs Canada and the Vancouver Economic Commission to bring great programming to the event.”

Because the Summit attracts a large number of attendees from Silicon Valley and Asia, the location is perfect, adds Enns.

“Vancouver is a magical city for people to visit; with the mountains, the ocean, Stanley Park, great restaurants and funky neighborhoods, it has a lot to offer event attendees,” she says. “There’s always something great to do outdoors: paddle boarding, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, day trips to Squamish and Whistler for skiing. People who have never been here fall in love with Vancouver the minute that they arrive.”

Waterloo Region: An esports and engineering hotspot

Nearly one quarter of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies are located in Waterloo, including Google’s largest R&D office in the country.
Nearly one quarter of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies are located in Waterloo, including Google’s largest R&D office in the country. Photo Credit: Explore Waterloo Region

Recently ranked the No. 1 small tech-talent market in North America by CBRE, Waterloo Region is perfectly placed to capitalize on the booming gaming and esports sector, thanks to its proximity to Toronto and status as a hub for innovation. Nearly one quarter of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies are located in Waterloo, including Google’s largest R&D office in the country, making the region ideal for planners seeking to build memorable programs within tech conferences.

Home to one of Canada’s top tech universities and its largest engineering school, the region also boasts the world’s largest collection of math and computer science talent; more than 30,000 technology professionals work here. Waterloo tech companies including Faire, ApplyBoard, Arctic Wolf and Auvik Networks raised close to $1.4 billion in new investment in just 40 days.

"What makes Waterloo Region unique is our strong tech ecosystem: We’re home to hundreds of start-up and scale-up companies, as well as tech giants like Google and BlackBerry."
—Jennifer Eddings, director of sales for Explore Waterloo Region

Leveraging the explosive growth in the live-gaming sector — which is on track to surpass $1 billion in global revenues this year — Explore Waterloo Region recently partnered with esports marketing company Subnation. The destination organization will aim to further support esports tournaments and attract more video game publishers, developers and gamers to its roster of companies that include game designers like Fluxscopic Ltd. and 56 Game Studios. The University of Waterloo’s Games Institute studies gamification and industry trends, so planners can tap experts in this revenue-generating sector to round out speaker programs.

“What makes Waterloo Region unique is our strong tech ecosystem: We’re home to hundreds of start-up and scale-up companies, as well as tech giants like Google and BlackBerry,” says Jennifer Eddings, director of sales for Explore Waterloo Region. “With so much innovation and creativity happening here, our team can tap into a wide range of guest speakers and arrange for special interest tours to enhance meetings and events so groups can experience big city amenities while enjoying Waterloo’s friendly small-town vibe.”

Combining entrepreneurism and hospitality, Waterloo Region offers groups in the tech sector an ideal learning and networking experience for meetings and events. 

Toronto: North America’s fastest-growing global IT hub

Toronto is ranked fourth in top markets for tech talent and investment, thanks to a wealth of offerings such as startup incubator MaRS Discovery District.
Toronto is ranked fourth in top markets for tech talent and investment, thanks to a wealth of offerings such as startup incubator MaRS Discovery District. Photo Credit: Destination Toronto

Toronto’s soaring tech sector, diverse culture and rich ecosystem of thought leaders and educational institutions makes it a great destination to connect to IT, new media and fintech professionals during meetings and events.

Amazon’s recent interest in the Greater Toronto Region generated huge attention, helping to fuel major investments from tech giants like Google, Reddit, DoorDash, Wayfair and Pinterest. High-paced growth in this sector is making Toronto one of the world’s most resilient cities, as well, with the highest rate of job creation in the tech field, according to the CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021 report: More than 10 per cent of jobs in the city are in tech — ahead of Seattle and Washington, D.C..

The CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021 report, released in July, revealed that Toronto has the fastest-growing tech talent pool, with more than 42 percent growth, and has added more tech jobs (81,200) than any other North American city. Tech business has doubled in the past five years. As headquarters for 40 percent of Canada’s businesses, the city is ranked fourth in top markets for talent and investment, ahead of New York City, thanks to its reputation as a livable, cosmopolitan city.

“When the team from Collision was looking for a new North American home, Toronto rose to the top due to our surging tech sector and because our convention and hospitality sector has the capacity and expertise to deliver a conference of this size and complexity.”
—Toronto Mayor John Tory

More than 18,000 companies including Umber Advanced Technologies Group, Intel, Pinterest and WeWork Labs expanded their presence in Toronto, employing close to 400,000 people. In June, IBM opened a new office in the city, hiring 500 employees following its recent collaboration with Mila on an open-source AI and machine learning project. Toronto also enables tech startups like InteraXon, which develops brainwave-controlled computing, to thrive and innovate along with more than 65 tech-focused business incubators and accelerators. Toronto has also recently been recognized as one of the top five fintech centers worldwide.

Collision, one of the world’s biggest technology events (pictured at the top of this story), chose Toronto as its host city through 2022. Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave cited Toronto’s explosive growth, talent pool, five world-leading universities and welcoming vibe as the main reasons for moving the event here from the U.S.

“When the team from Collision was looking for a new North American home, Toronto rose to the top due to our surging tech sector and because our convention and hospitality sector has the capacity and expertise to deliver a conference of this size and complexity,” says Toronto Mayor John Tory. “Collision is about looking forward and working with the best and the brightest to get there — and that's what it means to live and work in Toronto.”

“Collision is riding the wave of Toronto,” says Cosgrave. “Toronto had already arrived before we came here. I just don’t think a lot of people elsewhere in the world had seen it with their own eyes.”

Montréal: Forward-thinking healthcare AI

Boasting renowned scientific centers of excellence — including more than 40 research chairs and labs such as those launched by Google, Microsoft and Facebook — Montréal’s interconnected tech ecosystem brings industry, business and government partners together.
Boasting renowned scientific centers of excellence — including more than 40 research chairs and labs such as those launched by Google, Microsoft and Facebook — Montréal’s interconnected tech ecosystem brings industry, business and government partners together. Photo Credit: Loïc Romer

Montréal has developed groundbreaking expertise in the health sciences sector, with 118,900 AI and tech-related specialists employed in this city. Montréal is also home to Scale AI, Canada’s AI health cluster. Montréal has one of the world’s largest deep-learning university communities, which helps drive its global AI sector. Named as one of the three best places to invest in AI in North America, the city attracts big dollars. For example, just in the past three years, Montréal International has invested close to $1 billion to support more than 40 AI projects in the area.

As an innovation center and one of North America’s most influential life sciences centers, Montréal consistently tops planners’ lists. Some of the world’s most prominent researchers in the life science field work here, conducting research and trials for new treatments, and advancing patient care in neuroscience, cardiology, oncology and AI for health. 

All of this makes the city an ideal destination for business events in these areas.

"Montréal was the  most interesting choice for our event because it hosts one of the biggest and most prestigious research groups of the field worldwide (MILA) and has over 250 researchers and PhD students in AI-related areas," says Tess Berthier, research lead for Imagia Cybernetics, brought a group together for the Medical Imaging in Deep Learning conference in 2020. "It also has an outstanding ecosystem of medical imaging companies and research labs. We were able to obtain a great set-up at Palais des Congres thanks to Tourisme Montreal. Unfortunately, the conference had to be held virtually in the end but we leveraged expertise from the academia and industry in the city through talks or by complementing the structure of the event with their knowledge."

"Montréal was the most interesting choice for our event because it hosts one of the biggest and most prestigious research groups of the field worldwide (MILA) and has over 250 researchers and PhD students in AI-related areas."
—Tess Berthier, research lead for Imagia Cybernetics and organizer of the Medical Imaging in Deep Learning conference

There’s so much going on in this space that Bonjour Startup Montréal recently launched a map that visually represents the organizations making up the city’s AI ecosystem, including My Intelligent Machines, Deeplite and Heyday AI.

Boasting renowned scientific centers of excellence — including more than 40 research chairs and labs such as those launched by Google, Microsoft and Facebook — Montréal’s interconnected tech ecosystem brings industry, business and government partners together. The International Centre of Expertise for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence recently launched in Montréal and will work closely with the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence Secretariat, housed at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Montréal has seen many success stories in this sector of late. The Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal school of artificial intelligence in healthcare is a world first, focusing on the development of human capacities and the implementation of AI in a real environment. It will apply AI to health, measuring impact on patients, teams and the health system. Montréal-based Imagia’s scientists use big data to achieve medical breakthroughs, and a process called radiomics to find biomarkers in patient imagery data so they can then analyze these images and predict the progression of a disease as well as the patient’s response to treatment. 

Another local company, Hexoskin, develops biometric clothing that monitors patients while collecting medical data. The garments are used in cardiology, pneumology, neurology, psychiatry and pediatrics. And Mila, a thriving AI hub employing more than 600 researchers, is the world’s largest academic research lab specializing in deep learning and reinforcement learning. BMO recently launched a fellowship and award program at McGill University focusing on ethical applications of AI. And in April, Montreal’s MILA AI research center teamed up with Intel to apply AI practices to medical research, speeding up the search for life-saving drugs that could lead to curing disease. This partnership helps cement the city’s leadership as a global leader in AI research.

With its state-of-the-art Palais de Congrès convention center, a walkable downtown core and a city known for its unique joie de vivre, there’s plenty to attract attendees to Montreal. 

destination-canada-logo-smallIn Canada, tech leaders 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, opportunities and for valuable connections that will enhance your next tech event in Canada 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, natural resources and more.

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