NGen: Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster

In conversation with Prairie Manufacturer Magazine

Prairie Manufacturer Magazine is proud to collaborate with NGen: Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster to build awareness across the region of the important work they’re doing with manufacturers and beyond.

In the coming issues, you’ll meet some of NGen’s people and learn more about Prairie-based, industry-led projects they’re supporting.

What is NGen, and what does it do?

NGen is one of five industry-led and supported Superclusters across Canada that was developed in the 2017 Innovation and Skills Plan from the federal government and announced in Budget 2018 when the Supercluster initiative got lift-off.

The Superclusters are a $1-billion initiative to take a different look at innovation policy and action in Canada. Rather than the government setting the direction in terms of innovation and commercialization, it’s business taking the lead. 

NGen works in the advanced manufacturing space to build world leading capabilities in Canada. We do this by leveraging Canada’s existing technology and manufacturing strengths to accelerate the development, deployment, and scale-up of these advanced technologies in the manufacturing ecosystem. A lot of this work is about partnering companies with other manufacturers, technology suppliers, academia, and funding partners to bring these advanced manufacturing solutions to market.

As part of our five-year strategy, NGen has a number of discrete initiatives underway. One is growing and enhancing the advanced manufacturing ecosystem as a whole; another is promoting Canada’s capabilities in this area on the world’s stage; and a third is around connecting and strengthening the collaboration across the ecosystem. 

It’s that connection and collaboration between the various strengths we have as a country and as an industry that really underpins a lot of what NGen does. It’s probably one of the most significant opportunities we see in Canada.

NGen funds business ideas that are:

• Collaborative: developing industry relationships, building trust and sharing in knowledge, risk, investment and the resulting benefits.

• Enduring: leaving a legacy in skills development, tools, testbeds, intellectual property, and/or business knowledge for Canada’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem beyond the partners and timeline of the project.

• Applied: focused on solutions, supporting later stage technology and manufacturing readiness with potential to generate significant long-term commercial and economic benefits.

• Transformative: involving the development of advanced manufacturing capabilities with the potential to confer a significant global competitive advantage to Canadian industry. 

Is NGen run by government?

No, NGen is not run by government, but we do receive some government funding. We’re a private sector-led organization, and we have a board of directors that really reflects Canada’s advanced manufacturing sector, with members from some of Canada’s largest manufacturing and technology organizations. 

Membership in NGen is open to any organizations or individual experts who are contributing to advanced manufacturing in Canada. We currently have more 3,300 members representing manufacturers, technology providers, research labs, government funding organizations, and other active participants.

We use the financial support from the government to identify those areas where the industry landscape is right for disruption through these collaborative initiatives, and we’ll support projects with funding that bring together participants to pursue things they otherwise wouldn’t.

What sort of barriers currently prevent or hinder collaboration between organizations?

Collaborations, in and of themselves, tend not to spring up organically very often. They require a good amount of nurturing, care, and feeding in order to come to life, even with funding supports available.

In the ‘real world,’ there are many considerations at play, especially when you’re looking at larger organizations working with smaller participants such as start-ups or scale-up-type companies. In many cases, it can be the legal perspective and the intellectual property concerns that will often slow down the collaboration or the initiative.

NGen can play the role of a broker for these collaborative partnerships, and we can help all the participants in a variety of ways that will smooth the integration process and hopefully accelerate the impact.

Whether it’s identifying new partnership opportunities, looking at capabilities and capacities to find complementary matches, or even bringing funding support to the table, that’s where NGen can step in to make things a bit easier.

How much work is NGen doing in the Prairies?

We currently have about 3,300 members across Canada, and due to the nature of manufacturing in this country, about 2000 of those members are
in Ontario.

On the Prairies – and in every region of Canada – though, we’re really working hard to find new participants, projects, and partners. In Alberta we have 208 members; 35 members in Saskatchewan; and 55 in Manitoba. In project terms, we have about 10 projects across the Prairies, so there’s plenty of room to grow!

Is NGen actually making a difference in the manufacturing sector?

Yes, absolutely, and we have the numbers to show!

Since NGen started its work across Canada, projects have generated: 

• Approximately $750 million in new purchase orders
• More than 315 new intellectual property opportunities
• 51 new products currently in development
• 36 new products to fight COVID-19
• 64 new manufacturing processes developed and implemented
• 1600 new manufacturing jobs in projects underway (and more than 11,200 over 10 years)

Plus, we’ve collaborated with 39 funding partners and 65 academic and research partners supporting the projects underway.

How can someone learn more about NGen?

The best way to learn more about NGen is to visit, email, and stay tuned to Prairie Manufacturer for highlights about our work across the Prairies.