Canada has long been a catalyst and trailblazer that fosters forward-thinking collaboration, attracting international business events in the Advanced Manufacturing sector, which employs 1.7 million Canadians and receives more than $20 billion in new capital annually. So it was not surprising when some 6,000 of its most accomplished companies and institutions stepped up during the Covid-19 crisis for the Made in Canada Project. This effort directed industry expertise, resources and pioneering technology toward assisting in the pandemic response both locally and around the world.
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, 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 and helping its partners respond to the critical healthcare priorities brought on by the coronavirus. NGen's investment in 19 projects 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 six cities are leveraging that expertise to the benefit of business events in this sector.
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.
"Advanced manufacturing has been incredibly resilient over the past months, and it's showing no signs of slowing down in terms of industry events already booked or being planned."
—Guy-Joffroy Lord, director, business intelligence, development and strategic alliances at Business Events Montréal
Such a dynamic advanced manufacturing sector has made Montréal an ideal destination for major events including the Montreal Manufacturing Technology Show, the Advanced Design & Manufacturing Expo, plus the upcoming IEEE International Conference on Communications and Fab 16.
"We're lucky to have such a strong advanced manufacturing cluster in Montréal," says Guy-Joffroy Lord, director, business intelligence, development and strategic alliances at Business Events Montréal. "This sector has been incredibly resilient over the past months, and it's showing no signs of slowing down in terms of industry events already booked or being planned."
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.
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 190 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.
"We have so many companies in all kinds of different sectors in Ottawa, we also have the embassies, the universities and the National Research Centre which is state-of-the-art research in technical fields," says Lesley Mackay, vice president, meetings and major events, Ottawa Tourism. "What's distinctive here is the collision and collaboration that's happening between these organizations. So when conference organizer secure Ottawa as an upcoming destination to host a conference, they're able to really leverage on this ecosystem."
"What's distinctive [in Ottawa] is the collision and collaboration that's happening between these organizations. So when conference organizer secure Ottawa as an upcoming destination to host a conference, they're able to really leverage on this ecosystem."
—Lesley Mackay, vice president, meetings and major events, Ottawa Tourism
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 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.
Toronto: Canada's manufacturing heartland
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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 along with Canada's second-largest aerospace cluster, making it a pioneer in automotive and robotics research.
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.
"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."
—Julie Pike, director of Canadian events at SME, a non-profit association of professionals, educators and students that promotes the manufacturing industry
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."
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 50,000 highly skilled people working in its manufacturing industry.
It's also generating the next wave of innovators: The University of Waterloo, which offers the world's largest co-operative education program, 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.”
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.
Winnipeg: A prairie giant for advanced manufacturing
"Winnipeg is a hub for advanced manufacturing — it's the largest center for transportation manufacturing in North America, and home to 1,378 companies in the sector," 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 is a hub for advanced manufacturing — it's the largest center for transportation manufacturing in North America, and home to 1,378 companies in the sector."
—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.
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 44,400 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.
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 the American Society of Civil Engineers UESI Pipelines 2021 Conference in June.
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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