- Industry and government have come together in Ottawa to showcase the city’s capabilities in and commitment to growing the connected and autonomous vehicle sector.
- As a jurisdiction, Ottawa has really leaned into the connected and autonomous vehicle sector by supporting the sector with funding, research, and various acceleration initiatives.
- The growth of local talent and attraction of foreign talent is a key factor in the growing innovation landscape in Ottawa.
Ottawa has been able to excel in the connected and autonomous vehicles sector thanks to multi-level collaboration between government, industry, and academia. Through strengthened collaborative efforts, Ottawa can continue to shine in its key areas of focus, distinguishing it as a prime location for foreign investment.
What are Canada’s competitive advantages in terms of attracting investments?
As you look at our country and how we are perceived in world markets, I like to think of how we are perceived through the lens of the Edelman Trust Barometer, where we come in at the number one or two spots. Canadian businesses are amongst the most trusted businesses in the world. You have a sense that our country produces a sense of trust in terms of our commercial business, and that is not a bad starting point. Then if you look at Canada from coast to coast, we have a massive geography, we are resource rich, and we have sectors of capability everywhere.
Canadian businesses are amongst the most trusted businesses in the world.
Ottawa’s capability is in the tech-centric nature of government, and other cities and jurisdictions have different areas of competency. We are the highest educated market in the world. South Korea is nipping at our heels, but at this point, Canada is the most highly educated workforce on the planet when looking at those that have graduate degrees between the ages of 25 to 64. That is an undeniable fact. These are good places to start in terms of Canada as an attractive area for investment. Talent is also extremely important, and then having an existing bulk of businesses in each region of the country is also very attractive. We have full ecosystems of capability.
What makes Ottawa attractive for global investors and what are local stakeholders doing to improve those strengths?
Ottawa is a unique city in the country. We are known as a government town—one in five employees in Ottawa are in government jobs, but the second-largest sector we have is our tech community. We have almost 80,000 workers in Ottawa who work outside of government in tech roles, and there are a lot in government as well. These are two very important ingredients and when you are in the centre of a pandemic, this provides you with quite a bit of resiliency. Our third sector is tourism, so there is no confusion in Ottawa in terms of what our core sectors are.
What are we doing to bolster that? We are doing a lot. What you may know about the company is that we do both foreign direct investment and trade work, but we also build domestic entrepreneurs and help to entice people to look at the whole area of entrepreneurship. Ottawa has tons of programming to support entrepreneurial ambitions, with accelerator and scale-up programs, and we are very vertically-focused. One example is the work that we are doing that led to the announcement of Area X.O in October by Minister Mélanie Joly. We had all levels of government involved in that. That project really showcases our mobility and cybersecurity capability in the region.
Ottawa has tons of programming to support entrepreneurial ambitions, with accelerator and scale-up programs, and we are very vertically-focused.
Ottawa by far has the highest density of research and development (R&D) in the country when it comes to telecommunications. It is a historic fact. Generationally, we are good at it and at this moment in time, we are in the fourth industrial revolution. We are in the right place at the right time—who does not need mobility solutions? Everybody does; we are on a call right now that is using it. Our region is in an extremely good position and Ottawa is trying to provide experiences where we can show vertical use case scenarios of how mobility can change the world. An example inside of that would be that we run a 100-acre smart farm at the Area X.O site to showcase precision agriculture. What lights up precision agriculture? Mobility. Who has the capability with telecommunications to make that happen? Ottawa does. We run a fully autonomous vehicle program there and we have quite a bit of technology available for testing, trialing, and proving out ideas. It is fully operational, and these are the things we are working on.
How do you see the connected and autonomous vehicle sector evolving in Ottawa?
Ottawa has leaned in to the connected and autonomous vehicle sector because we are trying to plan for the future. A good example of this is that we ran an 8-week project with Transport Canada, the Ministry of Transportation Ontario, the City of Ottawa, a company called EasyMile, and a couple of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), one of which is AutoGuardian, which provides safety technology. Their product looks like the orange cones you see at construction sites, but they have a full sensor, cameras, and all that stuff. We have another company called RideShark that helped us arrange things like bubble riding. We ran a public-facing autonomous shuttle project around Tunney’s Pasture. If you are familiar with Ottawa, it is in a government complex and it is a safe area for us to do this kind of testing. It is also connected to light rail. When we tease out projects like these, the City of Ottawa leans in because they are really trying to understand how the public will react to this and they want to make sure it is safely managed.
It is a triple helix model, where we work with big and small industry and with academia for applied research. In fact, we even had Carleton University students help us as traffic marshals for the project. Of course, there is also the government as regulators and policymakers. If you want to move a market, you must have industry, academia, and government present, and that is what is being done in Ottawa with CAVs.
What is the availability of high-quality talent in Ottawa?
Firstly, just a bit of a framework for why Ottawa has so much tech-centric talent. The latest CBRE report showed that 11.3% of our workforce are in tech jobs. Ottawa has the highest amount of tech talent in North America, ahead of Silicon Valley at an advanced level. We were ranked third in Canada in terms of being a desirable tech talent hub. These things do not just happen overnight. The reason we have strong talent is that Ottawa has 65 government research labs and 1,750 tech companies. To support all of that, we have high production out of our post-secondary institutions. We have some great universities and colleges in Ottawa, where 20% of their enrolments are in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, which really bodes well for what our market needs. We have a lot of international students in normal times. The pandemic has stymied that, but in normal times we have a fairly high proportion of our student base coming from international markets. Why? The education is good and the city is safe. It is a good place to send your young adult to go to school and so it is a very desirable market that way.
Ottawa has the highest amount of tech talent in North America, ahead of Silicon Valley at an advanced level. We were ranked third in Canada in terms of being a desirable tech talent hub.
In terms of talent, Ottawa is well-positioned because of the high density of opportunities from a job placement perspective. This has happened over a long period of time. We produce a lot of talent but we also have a talent team at Invest Ottawa that recruits internationally. It is a successful program that won the 2020 HR Awards for the Most Effective Recruitment Strategy. We came in ahead of some very big names.
Why should foreign investors choose Ottawa?
The way I like to characterize this when we talk to site selectors of companies that have an interest in the region is that Ottawa really does try to be specific. We are not Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver; we are a city of a million people and we like to be very specific. We are very strong in mobility and cybersecurity, and we are building a strong base of life sciences companies. We try to put big global firms together with our domestic growing firms but also with practitioners so we can tease out projects.
We try to do this in a very targeted way. Ottawa has its sweet spots as a region and we are very focused on those areas. We are not trying to be everything to everybody.
What is the benefit of being close to the federal government for foreign investors?
It comes back to an earlier statement I made around bringing together industry, government, and the applied research of academia That is known as the triple helix model. Ottawa has big tech, big government, and a really strong post-secondary capability. We are uniquely positioned for that role and I am very proud of our city. We collaborative well with other regions. We have to because we are a smaller city and we are quite good at it. From a Canadian perspective, I believe that in Canada, we should be traveling in packs to go after global markets for exports. Ottawa is here to work with you as an R&D partner. That is what we are great at and that is what we would love to work with you on.