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April Wrap-Up: The tide is starting to turn

A round-up of business and investment news stories from Waterloo, Canada in April 2020.

If March was a scramble to react to an unprecedented crisis, then April was when we started to take the fight to COVID-19.

This month saw the largest peacetime mobilization of industrial capacity in Canada’s history, including a few huge pivots that make Waterloo a focal point in the manufacture of medical supplies.

We also saw governments – federal and provincial – launch unprecedented programs to protect workers and companies alike, and researchers continued to make progress in finding an effective vaccine.

The tide is starting to turn – there are reasons for optimism even if there’s still uncertainty.

Here are the top business and investment stories from Waterloo in April:

1. InkSmith’s Canadian Shield lands two huge contracts

We wrote about InkSmith in our last news roundup, but things have gone into fast-forward since March. In early-April we wrote about the company’s massive pivot from edtech to personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing but, in the few weeks since then, the company has celebrated numerous milestones.

They have moved into a 50,000 square foot facility, hired 150+ people, launched a PPE-specific company and landed orders of 300,000 face shields from the Ontario government and 10 million face shields from Canada’s federal government.

2. Eclipse secures partnership to build automated N95 production lines

A leading supplier of custom automated manufacturing equipment for life sciences, energy, transportation and more, Eclipse Automation knows how to develop new manufacturing lines in a tight timeframe.

On April 8, the company announced a new partnership with Harmontronics Automation in China to manufacture, sell, distribute, service, commission and modify a fully-automated N95 respirator mask production line system throughout North America and will start with an initial production line in Waterloo Region.

3. ATS commits to manufacturing respirators, ventilator components and more

One of Waterloo Region’s most successful global companiesATS Automation Tooling Systems builds automation systems for use in a wide variety of applications, including food and consumer products, transportation, energy and more.

The company has announced that they will begin to produce filtering face respirators (FFR), ventilator components, COVID-19 test kits and more.

4. Manufacturers across Waterloo are pitching in

When we first launched our blog post capturing stories about companies pitching in to help the world cope with COVID-19 it was mostly full of tech companies. That’s due mostly to the fact that it’s much easier to pivot a digital product than something like a production line.

However, throughout April we saw an influx of stories about local manufacturers, including Mitchell Plastics, Dare Foods, Prescientx, 3D Prototype Design Inc. and Tri-Mach Group making a difference.

5. Local leaders start to think long-term

In March, leaders from local governments and organizations – including Waterloo EDC – came together to form BESTWR, a partnership to help businesses address COVID-19-related challenges. Their work has continued through April and included the publication of a new open letter that turns the conversation toward planning for recovery.

If you want a closer look at BESTWR as well as insight into prospects for recovery in Waterloo Region, check out our Q&A with Waterloo EDC President & CEO Tony LaMantia.

6. Researchers developing vaccine in Waterloo

Researchers from the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy, which is home to specialists in vaccine design, are working on a COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered as a nasal spray for use in both treatment and immunization.

Testing is still in early stages with pre-clinical work due to be done by April 2021, which is roughly in line with the expected schedule for the many potential vaccines in development. Read the full story from CTV News.

7. Governments launch massive suite of support programs

While some programs were announced in late March, the vast majority of business and workforce support programs – including wage subsidies, rent assistance and more – were announced and launched this month.

Check out our up-to-date list of available resources or watch our growing series of webinars about frequently asked questions we’re receiving from businesses looking to access these programs.

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