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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.
Canada’s technology sector continues to cement itself as a global force to be reckoned with. International companies and associations are taking note, and the country’s innovation ecosystems, leading experts and pioneering research hubs are all playing their part in attracting events – as organizations look to leverage Canadian know-how to enhance their agendas.
In recent years, the Canadian technology sector has exploded more than ever before, and the country’s innovation, 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, Montréal, Toronto and in the Waterloo Region, prominent technology subsectors 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: Home of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster
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 events from across the world, organizations are drawn to the city’s trailblazing expertise in fields like digital media, and virtual and augmented reality (AR).
British Columbia, the province in which Vancouver is situated, is no stranger to tech excellence. The province is home to more than 10,000 tech-centric companies, employing more than 100,000 people, and generating more than $23 billion in revenue. As the largest city in the province, many of these companies are found in Vancouver. Major players include Intel, Amazon, Slack, EA and Nintendo. Amazon’s recent Vancouver expansion generated 3,000 high-tech positions, and in 2020, Mastercard opened its new Intelligence and Cyber Centre here.
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Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here
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Home to Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster — an industry network bringing together businesses, academia, community and government agencies to solve challenges facing the sector — Vancouver is also the second-largest VR/AR ecosystem in the world, with hundreds of 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 one of the top technology schools in the country. Developer boot camps like Lighthouse Labs, BrainStation 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 [Destination] 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.”
The Waterloo Region: Brimming with tech talent
Recently ranked the No. 1 small tech-talent market in North America by CBRE, the 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. Many of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies are located in Waterloo, and the city is home to 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 Canada’s “Most Innovative University” and its largest engineering school, the region also boasts the world’s largest concentration of math and computer science talent; more than 21,500 technology professionals work here. Waterloo tech companies including IBM, Oracle, Square, BlackBerry 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 marketing 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 the 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 the 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, the Waterloo Region offers groups in the tech sector an ideal learning and networking experience for meetings and events.
Toronto: North America’s fastest growing tech hub
Toronto’s soaring tech sector, diverse culture and rich ecosystem of thought leaders and educational institutions makes it a great destination to connect to digital entertainment, cybersecurity and fintech professionals during meetings and events.
Canadian start-ups and the world’s leading tech companies make Toronto the home of their Canadian headquarters. This includes giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Twitter. 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 of last year, 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. In fact, the Toronto Region accounts for over 25 percent of Canada’s tech talent and employment.
“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 17,000 companies including Umber Advanced Technologies Group, Intel, Pinterest and WeWork Labs expanded their presence in Toronto, employing nearly 300,000 people. In June 2021, 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 along with a wide range of business incubators and accelerators.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
Montréal: Industry-leading AI innovation
Montréal is another industry leading Canadian tech hub, with Greater Montréal employing nearly 180,000 professionals in the sector, many of home specialist in AI and medtech. The city is also home to Scale AI, Canada’s AI health cluster, and 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, Montréal attracts big dollars. For example, since 2016, more than $2 billion in AI investments have been announced in Greater Montréal.
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, who 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 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 Meta — 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 Health 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. In another innovation, 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 disruptor calling Montréal home, Hexoskin, develop biometric clothing that monitors patients while collecting medical data. The garments are used in cardiology, pneumology, neurology, psychiatry and pediatrics.
In Montréal, you can also find Mila, the world’s largest academic research lab specializing in deep learning and reinforcement learning, which employs more than 600 researchers. In April, the 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 Montréal. And AI conferences aren’t the only ones flocking to this charming city, Montreal will play host to the International Cybersecurity Forum’s FIC North American for the next three years.
Meet in Canada
In 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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