Technology powers the Canadian economy. Home to many of the world's largest tech hubs, Canada boasts more than 41,500 tech companies, plus its 919,000-plus tech workers represent a diverse and growing talent pool that draws major investments from global businesses. As we navigate the "next normal" alongside the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking to the tech sector — and Canada's tech hubs in particular — to help fuel the recovery in employment, innovation and growth.
Canada's tech centers make strong contenders to host the industry events that will propel us into a better future. Toronto's progressive FinTech developments, Ottawa's pioneering CAV sector, Edmonton's MedTech breakthroughs, Montréal's start-up incubators and Vancouver's cutting-edge advances in gaming, VR/AR and digital effects make these destinations major hubs for groups that want to tap into Canada's engaged tech community, elite expertise and academic resources.
Canada is an appealing multicultural destination with exceptional conference infrastructure, where planners can draw on the innovation taking place in many tech industries that have become more crucial than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's how Canada's most prominent centers of tech excellence are delivering for world-renowned business events.
Edmonton: Making MedTech breakthroughs
Recognized worldwide for its expertise in neurology, cancer research and treatment, bone and joint research, vaccines for infectious diseases, cardiology, diabetes and islet transplantation research, Edmonton, Alberta is Canada's innovation hub for MedTech advances.
Edmonton offers renowned research institutions that attract more than $500 million in external funding, including the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute, Bionic Limbs for Improved Natural Control Lab and the University of Alberta — which recently introduced a new heart-transplant protocol for children and robotic-assisted beating-heart surgery, and is one of the top artificial intelligence and machine learning research facilities globally. The city is also home to the headquarters of Alberta Health Services — Canada's first and largest integrated health system, making it a strategic location for health-related companies in Alberta.
"There's unique tech and innovation growth happening in Edmonton, which spurred the grassroots interest and support of SingularityU Canada from the time of the event onwards."
—Hannah Cowan, marketing team member of the SingularityU Canada Summit
Planners can leverage the city's many academic and health experts connected to these institutions and specialized hospitals such as Cross Cancer Institute, Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, Metabolomics Innovation Center, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, and Edmonton-based companies like Aris MD, Tevosol and MagnetTx.
"There's unique tech and innovation growth happening in Edmonton, which spurred the grassroots interest and support of SingularityU Canada from the time of the event onwards," says Hannah Cowan, a marketing team member of the SingularityU Canada Summit, which highlights local innovation and technology to facilitate strategic conversations about the future. Last year, the Summit brought together 1,100 business leader attendees, 1,000 student attendees, 40 expert speakers, 16 exhibitors and 6,000-plus remote participants from 60 satellite events.
"We now have some of our greatest community engagement in Alberta," adds Cowan.
In addition to the Summit and the livestream feed, Edmonton also hosted satellite events for local innovators at the University of Alberta, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, CompuVision, and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation.
Vancouver: A hotbed of creativity in gaming, visual effects and virtual/augmented reality
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Boasting a large tech and immersive industry, Vancouver's nearly 1,000 businesses in the digital entertainment space include trailblazing studios in VFX and animation including Sony Pictures Imageworks and Industrial Light & Magic, along with video game publishers like Electronic Arts and Microsoft. It's also the second-largest VR/AR ecosystem in the world, with more than 300 companies working in the space. The city's specialty programs — at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Emily Carr University of Art+Design, the Centre for Digital Media and Vancouver Film School — plus its enterprise and start-up community offer planners a wealth of expert speakers, exhibitors and partners.
Vancouver has hosted many world-class events in this space, including Vu, External Development Summit, Dota 2 and SIGGRAPH. And the industry-leading VR/AR Global Summit — which pivoted to a digital event for 2020 — has brought global thought leaders to Vancouver for three years in a row, says the event's executive producer, Anne-Marie Enns, Founder of Pulledin Productions.
"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."
—Anne-Marie Enns, founder of Pulledin Productions
"Tourism Vancouver and The Vancouver Hotel Destination Association 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, tennis. People who have never been here fall in love with Vancouver the minute that they arrive."
Ottawa: Driving CAV to the next level
Canada's capital is a tech-intensive city, with more than 11.3 percent of its workforce employed in information and communications technology. Ottawa is also a world leader in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), with more than 70 companies in its ecosystem — including Blackberry QNX — offering a cluster of advanced networking, software and internet-of-things expertise.
As the world and its vehicles are becoming more automated, Ottawa is the go-to place to hit the road and the region has become the driving force in developing software and sensors so self-driving cars can safely navigate.
Ottawa is also home to the L5, North America's first integrated CAV test facility of its kind. The almost 10-mile track enables vehicle-to-everything testing, validation and demonstration of technologies in the city's four-season climate. The site is equipped with GPS, dedicated short-range communications, Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE and 5G telecommunications and networking infrastructure from Ericsson and Nokia.
"Ottawa is the perfect site for a CAV conference — a special blend of natural beauty, cosmopolitan energy and proximity to policymaker."
—Bérengère Bonnet, marketing specialist at Ottawa Tourism
With the worldwide economic impact of CAVs estimated to reach US$7 trillion by 2050, Ottawa's annual CAV Canada conference — which presented a digital event series this year to showcase CAV tech solutions — showcases the safe development, commercialization and deployment of CAVs. The event attracts innovators, companies, post-secondary institutions, and other organizations with emerging connected car and A/V tech knowhow. Past events also featured the chance for delegates to experience innovative CAV technology at the L5 test track (pictured above) in the Kanata North, home of Canada's largest tech park.
"Ottawa is the perfect site for a CAV conference — a special blend of natural beauty, cosmopolitan energy and proximity to policymakers," says Bérengère Bonnet, marketing specialist at Ottawa Tourism. "Event organizers and delegates have access to talented speakers from the private sector, government and academia, and can visit companies and research centers. The city's compact downtown is highly walkable and filled with national sites and landmarks, galleries and museums, restaurants and shopping."
Toronto: Canada's FinTech capital
Toronto, Canada's largest city, sits at the forefront of FinTech innovation. As the second-largest financial center in North America, Toronto is among the fastest-growing global FinTech hubs, with 190 companies, 20-plus incubators/accelerators and the densest cluster of AI in the world. Toronto's technology sector has added almost 67,000 jobs over the past five years — the second-most of any North American city — and it has one of the world's highest growth rates for FinTech equity financing.
"Toronto is the most diverse city in the world and we try our best to welcome everyone and make sure they feel at home. It's something we pride ourselves on," says Toronto mayor John Tory. "That's particularly true in the tech sector, which has been growing at a world-leading pace, fueled by the talent arriving here from everywhere. When we combine their ideas and knowledge with our homegrown experts and entrepreneurs, we can create and innovate."
"When the team from Collision was looking for a new North American home, Toronto rose to the top due to our surging tech sector."
—Toronto mayor John Tory
Toronto offers planners a full slate of tech titans — global companies including Google, IBM and Cisco Systems all have their Canadian headquarters here. Thought leaders abound at HSBC's global Data Centre of Excellence, University of Waterloo's TD Lab and the soon-to-open IBM Blockchain Global Data Centre. Plus, five universities and six colleges can provide partners, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and attendees.
Fueling global innovation, Toronto's 1.5 million-square-foot MaRS Discovery District houses 150 of Canada's most successful financial and consumer technology companies, as well as pioneering start-up programs.
Toronto Pearson International Airport (the second-busiest airport in North America) and the smaller, downtown, Billy Bishop Airport, make this an exceptionally easy destination to access from most major cities throughout Canada and the U.S. And the region's blend of diversity, culture and educational opportunities made it ideal for powerhouse events including North America's fasting-growing tech conference, Web Summit's Collision Conference — nicknamed "The Olympics of Tech."
"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 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: Launching new meeting tech solutions
A dynamic metropolis bursting with European charm, Montreal's bustling energy is manifested in an abundance of tech expertise, a multicultural talent pool and most recently, edgy start-up incubators that are forging resilience in the events industry.
Creative tech solutions have been developed since the onset of the pandemic. Montréal's tourism start-up incubator, the MT Lab — a partnership between the city, the Université de Québec à Montréal School of Management and Tourism Montréal — is connecting businesses and community groups with inventive options that offers promise for the event industry. For example, Ottomata's social distancing software provides real-time display on floors and walls using video projections to ensure safety protocols, and it can be customized to any meeting venue. Another tech start-up, Hoppin, has developed a VR platform so planners can do virtual site visits at hotels, conference centers and other venues.
"With our new studio, the Palais keeps evolving to meet the needs of customers looking to broaden the reach of their event beyond the venue's walls."
—Palais des congrès de Montréal CEO Robert Mercure
The Palais des congrès de Montréal recently launched Palais Media Propulsion, a multi-platform digital studio that makes the conference center's cutting-edge facilities available to planners wishing to host virtual or hybrid events. The studio offers a space from which content components can be streamed, including videos, podcasts and social media posts — all designed to encourage virtual interactions.
"With our new studio, the Palais keeps evolving to meet the needs of customers looking to broaden the reach of their event beyond the venue's walls," says CEO Robert Mercure. "Palais Média Propulsion is a creative and flexible solution adapted to our post-COVID reality that will deliver access to exclusive content captured with the finest technology available. This undertaking will reflect Montréal's vitality and the unforgettable experiences we deliver at the Palais."
The Palais also integrated a virtual platform so exhibitors can showcase their products and services remotely, and real-time interaction and monetization opportunities through Livescale, a CITÉ startup. The Palais' solutions also enable in-person attendees to interact with remote delegates in real time.
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 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 life sciences, agribusiness, natural resources and more.
Content sponsored by Destination Canada Business Events