Advancing Advanced Manufacturing: a look back and ahead
Four years in, the future for Canadian advanced manufacturing has never looked brighter
For the last several years, NGen has been working to scale up and deliver against an ambitious national mandate. With four years passed since the kick-off of the Supercluster program, we have a great opportunity to look back at NGen’s progress to date and see what’s next for Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters.
NGen is dedicated to building world-leading advanced manufacturing capabilities in Canada, for the benefit of Canadians. We aim to strengthen the Canadian economy and create high-value jobs for Canadians while contributing solutions that address some of the world’s most pressing challenges in areas like health care, energy and resource management, and environmental sustainability.
NGen works to achieve these objectives by leveraging the research, technology, and industrial strengths of Canada’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem. We create new opportunities by combining the capabilities of our country’s manufacturers, engineering and technology companies, business services, researchers, academic institutions, innovation centres, business networks, and our high-quality workforce. By enhancing collaboration, NGen aims to improve Canada’s industrial innovation performance, connect and strengthen our advanced manufacturing ecosystem, and increase the competitiveness and growth potential of Canada’s advanced manufacturing companies.
A Vibrant Ecosystem
Canada is the home of many technology leaders in advanced manufacturing, world-renown research in the field, and manufacturing companies already active in global supply chains and export markets, but many of the country’s advanced manufacturing assets and capabilities are not widely known. Linkages between researchers and technology companies on one hand and manufacturers on the other, are underdeveloped.
Our objective is to build Canada’s Global Innovation Cluster for Advanced Manufacturing by expanding and engaging NGen’s membership and by networking, supporting, and developing collaborative innovation and commercialization opportunities for members across the ecosystem.
A holistic approach is vital to solve the technical and manufacturing problems facing Canadian industry and tackling many of the bigger economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting Canadians, now and in the future.
Advanced manufacturing is powering many of the solutions that we need, but it takes an ecosystem to achieve success, and to ensure that the opportunities and value of innovation are captured in Canada.
Collaborating for Scale
Collaboration is at the heart of NGen’s strategy. World-leading capabilities in advanced manufacturing cannot be built one company or one organization at a time. The pace of technological change, business disruption, and emerging market opportunities is simply too fast for any one entity to take all the risks or command all the resources needed to succeed on its own.
Unique manufacturing solutions depend on integrating knowledge, tools, and capabilities that employ a variety of advanced digital, materials, and production technologies and techniques. Deployment, scale-up, and commercialization of those solutions depend on maximizing the potential of shared intellectual property and support from innovation networks, business services, public sector, and investment infrastructures for their success. Business knowledge and best practices shared across organizations, sectors, and regions are instrumental in enhancing the leadership and management capabilities required to develop and execute new business strategies effectively. Everyone in Canada’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem has a stake in developing and gaining access to a highly qualified workforce.
NGen funding provides an important incentive for building collaboration and for strengthening Canada’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem. All NGen technology-related projects are expected to make a significant contribution in the form of intellectual property, education and workforce development opportunities, business knowledge, and/or tools and testbeds that can be shared with other NGen members.
NGen also invests in industry-led projects that specifically aim to enhance ecosystem capacity, providing direct support for the development of local innovation clusters, as well as funding for feasibility and pilot projects to help SMEs demonstrate, test, and scale up innovative manufacturing solutions.
World Leading Projects
NGen co-invests in industry-led collaborative projects that integrate technologies and manufacturing capabilities into transformative solutions or ecosystem supports that improve the competitiveness and growth potential of Canadian manufacturing.
We support the development and adoption of new processes that lead to significant improvements in manufacturing productivity either through significant reductions in costs, materials, inventories, product development, production, and delivery times, defects, physical waste and other non-value-adding activities, through enhancements in agility, flexibility, quality, functionality, reliability, and customization, or by better methods of identifying, predicting, and mitigating market and supply chain risks.
Productivity improvements like these are the basis for building advanced manufacturing capabilities that allow companies to respond rapidly to changing market conditions, pivot to manufacture new products as needed or to take advantage of new business opportunities, compete effectively in global markets, and grow their business internationally. They help to build resilient and secure supply chains in Canada and cement the role of Canadian companies in global supply chains.
Projects that reduce energy and waste because of productivity improvement initiatives have a positive impact on the environment. So, too, do projects that enable the development of biomaterials to replace carbon-intensive products and processes, extract and process natural resources in a more environmentally friendly way, or support the development, scale-up, and adoption of new technologies that are critical to addressing the innovation challenges facing the electric vehicle industry and other cleantech sectors that aim to achieve Canada’s net-zero economy. NGen has gained international recognition from the United Nations for the impact that one of its projects is having on sustainable development.
NGen fully committed its entire project budget by the end of March 2022. Over the past year we approved $81.4 million in funding for 75 projects with total projected investments amounting to $258 million. That brought the total amount of project funding approved by NGen to $235.9 million allocated among 166 projects with total investments at $607 million.
People – Workforce Development
World leading advanced manufacturing capabilities are not built on technology alone. They depend on the development and productive deployment of a highly skilled, diverse, and inclusive workforce.
NGen is working to build Canada’s advanced manufacturing workforce capabilities by attracting more young people into the sector, preparing them with the skills they will need for a successful career in advanced manufacturing, helping current workers upskill their technology and digital competencies, assisting more female and BIPOC workers to find jobs in advanced manufacturing, and encouraging best Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) practices in workforce recruitment and human resource management.
NGen’s workforce development initiatives include:
• Our Careers of the Future Campaign, a multimedia campaign and educational website (www.careersofthefuture.ca) aimed at attracting more young people into careers in advanced manufacturing.
• Student outreach initiatives and connections to Work Integrated Learning opportunities with NGen members.
• An Indigenous Manufacturing Entrepreneurship program to educate Indigenous youth about manufacturing and prepare them with the skills required in the sector.
• Support for the Virtual Robotics Training Academy (VRTA), an online platform for students and employees to learn coding and practice with robotics and computer network simulations.
• AMPUP – NGen’s open source upskilling program which offers manufacturers easier and lower cost access to modular education and training programs relevant to advanced manufacturing provided by colleges, universities, and private sector training providers across Canada.
• Development of advanced manufacturing micro-credentials in partnership with colleges and universities across Canada.
Based on indications of interest from our industry consultations and current project pipelines, NGen has identified approximately $650 million in potential industry investments related to four main streams of activity that will enhance Canada’s role as a leading secure and green supplier to the world.
In April 2022, the federal budget allocated an additional $750 million in funding for the Cluster program. NGen intends to leverage our share to do even more to build world-leading advanced manufacturing capabilities in Canada and position Canada as a leading green supplier to the world. NGen will apply for additional funding from the Global Innovation Cluster program to support strategic projects and ecosystem initiatives in these fields:
• Zero-Emission Vehicles
• Net-Zero Emission Processes and Facilities
• Circular Manufacturing of Materials
• Scale-Up and Adoption of Transformative Manufacturing Solutions
Our network of members, our established systems for efficient and responsible administration of projects and project financing, and our strong pipeline of project opportunities are advantages for NGen to identify and deliver even more funding opportunities from federal and provincial governments in the years to come.