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Five charts that illustrate Waterloo’s unique tech hub credentials

These five charts illustrate exactly why Waterloo is one of North America's premier tech hubs.

Home to Google’s Canadian engineering headquarters, major Square and SAP offices, well-known scale-ups like ApplyBoard and Faire, hundreds of startups and some of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies, it’s pretty clear that Waterloo is generating some pretty significant tech success.

How do we compare to other tech-heavy communities across the United States?

Waterloo EDC has explored the newest CBRE tech talent data – as well as other useful data sources– to help answer this question and put some quantitative heft behind the claim that Waterloo is one of North America’s premier tech hubs.

Here are five charts that demonstrate Waterloo’s unique tech hub credentials:

Incredible concentration of tech talent

Tech Talent Concentration - Waterloo

According to CBRE, a larger share of Waterloo’s employment is high-tech than any of these cities. We didn’t cherry-pick, either. These comparators are among the top-ranked talent markets in the United States, according to CBRE’s 2021 North America Scoring Tech Talent report. Waterloo has a greater density of tech talent than the Austin, Detroit or Columbus. We didn’t include it on the chart, but Waterloo also has a higher concentration of tech workers than Seattle or Denver, too. When it comes to talent density, Waterloo is the top mid-sized tech hub in North America.

Incredible computer science graduate output

Tech Student Enrollment - Waterloo

One thing that really defines the University of Waterloo is its sheer size. Yes, it’s highly rated, but it also has 10,000+ engineering students. It has about 4,000 computer science students. Among the comparison communities we listed above, it’s a clear leader, with only University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and Arizona State University – which has a very low global ranking for engineering – above us. No one comes close to UWaterloo’s computer science enrollment. It isn’t just about quantity, either (more about that on our next chart!). These are some of the best tech students you’ll find in North America and just about every graduate finishes with two years of on-the-job experience at companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google. That helps explain why it’s one of Silicon Valley’s top recruitment schools.


A top-ranked tech university

Tech University Rankings

The QS World University Rankings are the standard for evaluating the quality of university programs regardless of geography. American schools dominate the top of the list, but in communities with similarities to Waterloo the ranking in Engineering & Technology is roughly equivalent to UWaterloo. The scores only tell part of the story – the difference between UWaterloo and University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is just five spots on the ranking. Arizona State University – the representative for Phoenix – might look like it’s pretty close to Waterloo, but it’s ranked 158th and UWaterloo is ranked 38th. Salt Lake City doesn’t have a university on the ranking. In computer science, which isn’t represented in this chart, UWaterloo does even better, achieving the rank of 23rd globally.

Oh, and we should note that the University of Toronto – which is ranked above all of these universities except for Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh) is only an hour drive away from Waterloo.

Annual operating cost

Annual Operating - Waterloo

The reality is that money matters. Yes, talent is #1 in tech, but you can’t have salaries, space and other costs eating away at your ability to turn a profit. The chart above uses CBRE’s data on annual operating cost, based on the assumption of 500 employees and 75,000 square feet of space. As you can see, Waterloo is exceptionally competitive with our comparison cities. If we’d included bigger communities – like Silicon Valley or New York City – the difference would be even more dramatic.

If your company comes to Waterloo, it should be for the incredible talent and ecosystem. But, you can tap into this talent and ecosystem knowing that you’re also going to get more cost advantages here, too.

Astounding research output

Research Output - Total - Waterloo

For some tech companies, this is akin to saving the best for last.

Waterloo punches way above its weight when it comes to research. The University of Waterloo has a top-rated artificial intelligence institute, Canada’s largest university-based automotive research centre and the world’s largest concentration of math and computer science talent. That doesn’t touch on the substantial tech-focused research being done at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Conestoga College’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing or independent research hubs like Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

The chart above illustrates the total number of citations coming out of Waterloo and each of the top US cities identified by CBRE’s Scoring tech talent. Remember, these cities are many, many times the size of Waterloo. And yet, Waterloo research is cited more than Seattle and Dallas and almost as much as Washington. Now, if we correct for community size, here are the citations per capita:

Research Output - Capita - Waterloo

Wow. No one is even close.

Now, maybe this is due to the size of these other communities. After all, they have a lot going on that isn’t research or tech. So, we decided to compare Waterloo’s citations with some of the smaller communities we used as a comparison above (where data was available). Here are the results:


Research Output - Midsize - Waterloo

So, we’re still pretty darn competitive. Only Pittsburgh is ahead of us, and the next closest city – Columbus – is far behind. When we look at citations per capita with this group, Waterloo is once again well ahead of the pack.

Our community is a place where tech companies can find the best talent, attract investment, join a dense tech business community and tap into excellent research.

Learn more about Waterloo’s incredible tech ecosystem