Exciting Opportunities for Waterloo Region

In case you missed our AGM on September 13th…

Imagine combining the innovation and entrepreneurship of Silicon Valley with the manufacturing capabilities of Stuttgart Germany. The result would be a powerhouse of economic activity – enough to drive a nation.

Ian McLean, President & CEO of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce

There is a huge opportunity for Canada, Ontario and the Region of Waterloo to emerge as a global leader in advanced manufacturing and applications of technology. A coalition of business, government and academic stakeholders from Waterloo Region to Toronto has recently been formed to ensure the optimal development of our existing business corridor for the benefit of all of Canada.

The 2017 federal budget allocated close to $1 billion for the development of 3-5 select superclusters. The Toronto-Waterloo Corridor includes a diverse but concentrated manufacturing base, a highly skilled workforce, world class research originating from educational facilities, and a remarkable entrepreneurial dynamic. Further development of an advanced manufacturing Supercluster will exploit existing dynamics, knit these assets together more effectively, leverage Ontario’s strengths in innovation and technology to supercharge manufacturing competitiveness, and boost the wealth creating capacity of the Canadian economy.

Our goal locally is to see, by 2025, Canadian manufacturing set world benchmarks in competitiveness and growth through the application of advanced technologies. In order to turn this vision into reality, manufacturers will need to speed up the adoption of advanced technologies to produce new products and services, optimize production processes, improve operating efficiencies, and develop new revenue opportunities. Technology companies will concurrently need to scale up production capabilities more quickly as well.

The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster of southern Ontario will leverage significant resources from the private sector, technology companies, universities, colleges and research centres to meet the objective of creating the premier global centre of manufacturing. Despite major global shifts in production over the past decade, manufacturing remains the foundation for domestic economic growth.

In 2016, Ontario manufacturers produced $300 billion in products, accounting for 13 percent of the provincial GDP and 6 percent of national GDP. The sector directly employed 752,000 full-time workers at higher-than-average wages. Every manufacturing dollar generates $3.50 in economic activity and one job generates four indirect additional positions.

To compete in global markets, Ontario manufacturers must integrate transformative technologies into new and improved products, processes, and business models to grow and create jobs. A competitive manufacturing sector and dynamic technology ecosystem are vital for Canada’s economic future.  However Canadian companies are struggling to attract qualified workers, investment, and customers for sustained expansion. With other nations investing heavily to transform their manufacturing sectors, Canada is running the risk of falling badly behind.

Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster will address our chronic manufacturing challenges by focusing on synergies, connections and collaboration between technology and manufacturing sectors with the objective of creating enhanced competitive advantages and business opportunities for both. The model will also allow connections with other Canadian clusters facing similar challenges, build demand, de-risk product development, leverage local assets, and connect suppliers to domestic and global opportunities.

The Tech North report produced by McKinsey and Company in 2016 indicates that $17.5 billion in direct GDP growth and 170,000 high quality jobs could be generated by creating a global innovation ecosystem across the Toronto-Waterloo Region corridor. This estimate does not include the impacts of linking business with post secondary and related research institutions.

The Supercluster project is still in the early stages of development with well over $350 million being pledged by the private sector to match potential federal funding commitment of an equal amount.

This is the commencement of a game changing strategy for Waterloo Region and the Ontario economy and hopefully the federal government will recognize the immense opportunities it presents.

Waterloo Region can and will help lead the way!