Canada’s capital has it all — abundant talent, product innovation and an economy that weathers all storms

International intellectual and author, Richard Florida ranks Ottawa as Canada’s number one city based on the three Ts of economic development: Technology, Talent and Tolerance

Ottawa builds upon its traditional strengths as the nation’s capital and is globally recognized as a centre for innovation and technological advancements as well as a national tourism and convention destination. With quick and easy access to the U.S. market, plus close proximity to Canada’s largest cities — Toronto and Montreal — Ottawa provides a unique advantage for business growth.

Invest Ottawa, an expanded city initiative launched in 2012 to attract investment and retain/grow existing businesses, is focused on building key knowledge-based sectors in the city. These innovative sectors include life sciences, clean technology, wireless, security and defence, photonics, digital media, film and TV productions.

Ottawa has the most educated workforce in Canada – 61 per cent of the city’s workers hold a post secondary degree. Ottawa is second only to San Jose, California, in North America for a concentration of scientists and engineers.

Ottawa is home to 44 federal labs, and four post-secondary institutions with a total enrolment of over 120,000 students annually, of which 21,309 study in science and technology programs. Together, the city’s colleges and universities undertake $342.7 million of sponsored research annually. 

Why Ottawa

Ottawa is an established, internationally recognized centre of excellence in telecommunications, semi-conductor, optical technologies and wireless systems, as well as converging opportunities with photonics and life sciences. Ottawa has over 400 companies in the telecommunications sector employing over 35,000 people. Ottawa accounts for 90% of Canada’s industrial telecommunications R&D. Companies with a presence in Ottawa own 74% of the global optical telecom market. The world’s largest wireless telecommunications network equipment companies, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Cisco Systems Inc., Ciena Corp., Blackberry, JDS Uniphase Inc., Infinera Corp., Huawei Technologies Canada Co., Ltd. and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), are developing next generation products in Ottawa. All major technologies are represented in the city – cellular, satellite and fixed wireless systems. All are designed and manufactured in Ottawa.

In the last few years, Ottawa’s cleantech sector has grown significantly – increasing from 137 to over 240 companies, with over 5,300 people working in the sector. Firms involved in converting garbage and waste products to biofuels and renewable energy have increased market penetration over the past year. These include Plasco Energy Group Inc.’s expansion into China as well as Ensyn Corp., with its growth into China and Brazil. Ottawa-based firms providing solutions for the wastewater and water treatment sectors are also growing. Bluemetric Environmental Inc. has expanded into Europe, U.S. and China, and Stantec Inc. into U.S., Europe and Asia.

Ottawa’s economy has consistently weathered all storms. Its combination of knowledge-based technology and government jobs allow Ottawa to enjoy one of the lowest unemployment rates among Canada’s major cities. 

Business advantage

Ottawa leads all Canadian cities with the most educated workforce in Canada. More than 130 international embassies and consulates are based in Ottawa and assist companies seeking information concerning commercial expansion to overseas markets. In addition, most federal agencies in Ottawa have a mandate to support Canadian companies.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) works with Invest Ottawa to organize incoming and outgoing trade and investment missions. The Export Development Corporation helps exporters expand business. The Business Development Bank of Canada offers business financing. Canada’s largest government research facility, the National Research Council (NRC), based in Ottawa, works closely with the city’s business community and administers Canada’s premier innovation assistance program for small and medium-sized enterprises — the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

Ottawa has a dynamic and comprehensive research infrastructure that focuses on government, university and industry collaboration. With a critical mass of research facilities, a highly educated workforce and access to substantial federal and provincial R&D tax incentives, Ottawa is widely acclaimed as a world-class centre for research. 

Future plans

Ottawa’s economic development plans include:

  • Funding for large scale cultural and sports events that will bring significant benefits for the local economy
  • Increased support for knowledge-based sectors including life sciences, cleantech, wireless, security and defence, photonics, digital media, film and TV productions
  • New and sustainable funding to enhance entrepreneurship
  • A two billion dollar upgrade to Ottawa’s water infrastructure
  • Boosting the convention industry with the new $180 million convention centre in the heart of the city
  • Building a $2.1 billion light rail network to improve public transit

It’s important to not be afraid and dream. — Jim Watson, City of Ottawa Mayor, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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