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4 pillars supporting Canada’s largest robotics and automation cluster

Four factors play a huge role in making Waterloo the largest robotics and automation cluster in Canada: ecosystem, talent, research assets and location.

Waterloo is home to Canada’s largest robotics and automation cluster. It’s an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence.

Our proof: a brand new ecosystem map that identifies and categorizes the 90+ robotics and automation companies working in our community. On this map, you’ll find multinationals like LEONI, ATS Automation and Beckhoff Automation, robotics upstarts like Otto Motors, Deep Trekker, Avidbots and so much more.

What’s behind this incredible business community? What makes it work? Why Waterloo?

Here are the four pillars supporting the Waterloo robotics and automation cluster:

Significant clusters in technology and advanced manufacturing

Innovation happens when industries collide.

Like just about every other community in North America, we’ve been in the manufacturing game for more than a century. But, we excel at advanced manufacturing that incorporates technology to improve productivity and efficiency. That’s why Toyota is here, investing substantially in its Waterloo Region facilities and winning more awards for quality than any other manufacturing plant in North America. More than 18% of our workforce is in the manufacturing industry – it’s a big deal for us.

We’re very active in manufacturing, but what we’re known for around the world is technology. We have an exceptionally diverse tech community working in artificial intelligence, autotech, fintech, cybersecurity and even quantum technology. We’re home to about 20% of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies, including three unicorns, and our last two years have been nothing short of transformative – this is Canada’s most dynamic tech hub.

Put advanced manufacturing and technology together – combine the workforces, expertise, etc. – and you have a recipe for success, productivity and innovation in robotics and automation.

Specialized talent pipeline built for robotics and automation

It all starts with Canada’s largest engineering school. The University of Waterloo is well-known as a globally-significant technology university, scoring in the top 50 for Engineering and Technology in the annual QS global university rankings. It’s also the top-ranked university in Canada for engineering, computer science and mathematics.

The school’s programs are geared toward robotics and automation. Mechatronics Engineering, for example, is a unique program that combines computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, which prepares graduates who can work on all components of a robotic system. The founders of Clearpath Robotics and Avidbots? Mechatronics graduates.

Oh, and they graduate with 2+ years of on-the-job experience, too.

We can’t forget about Conestoga College, either, which produces graduates across the trades and in programs like Applied Electrical Motion and Control Management, Embedded Systems Development and Applied Manufacturing Management in Mechatronics. They’re also the only polytechnic institute in Ontario that can bestow engineering degrees.

Access to top researchers in relevant fields

Access to talent isn’t just about access to new graduates. In high-tech industries like robotics and automation, innovation often happens at the intersection with academia, where cutting-edge research and expertise can meet application.

The University of Waterloo has a reputation for partnering with industry to conduct research, especially in robotics and automation. The school is home to the Robohub, the AI Institute, several mechatronics research groups and autonomous vehicle research labs like AVRIL and WatCAR.

Conestoga College also has significant research and development assets available to companies interested in innovation. Applied research centres include the SMART Centre for smart manufacturing, the Magna Centre for Supply Chain Excellence and the Institute of Food Processing Technology, to name a few.

Robotics: The Waterloo Advantage

Strategic location in the heart of Canada’s biggest manufacturing corridor

Unlike most technology companies, if you’re working in robotics and automation – or you’re incorporating those technologies into your manufacturing operations – you need to have guaranteed access to market.

Waterloo is right at the heart of Canada’s biggest manufacturing and automotive corridors. If you’re a supplier, that means you have a built-in market within about 100km/65mi each direction. If you sell to American customers, you have easy access to six border crossings leading to the Atlantic Seaboard and the American Midwest – you’re within a day’s drive of New York, Boston, Chicago and Detroit. There’s also an international airport in Waterloo and we’re about 80km/50mi from Toronto Pearson Airport, which is the largest in Canada.

In Canada, we also have unrivaled global market access. Our free trade network – the world’s largest – gives Canada-based companies access to more than 40 countries representing 1.6 billion customers and 60% of the global economy. We’re #1 in trade connections to G7 countries, including Japan, the United States and the European Union. We even have a continuity agreement in place with the United Kingdom as it hammers out its trade future in more detail.

Waterloo: Built for Manufacturing Automation

Want to learn more about Waterloo’s exceptional robotics and automation cluster?

The Waterloo EDC team is happy to help, with comparative data, information on local land availability and more. There’s room here for your success!