In 2021, the information and technology sector outperformed the overall Canadian economy with an annual growth rate of 5 per cent compared to 1.6 per cent, according to statistics from the Government of Canada. Information and communications technology (ICT) also saw more investment in innovation, with over $10.3 billion in R&D spending.
With all of that growth and investment, it’s no surprise the Canadian technology industry is continuing to expand, at a time when other significant industries – like mining and natural resources – are declining. While tech layoffs have been a harsh reality and the global competition for top talent is fierce, employment numbers in Kanata North, Canada’s largest technology park, have steadily increased by over 1,000 annually for three consecutive years. And with ICT workers earning salaries that are 52.5 per cent higher than the national average, the sector is enticing the global talent it needs to keep scaling up.
But sustaining this trend will take strategic foresight and innovation. That’s what the Kanata North Business Association (KNBA) team and Board of Directors continue to prioritize.
With more than 540 companies spanning more than ten sub-sectors of high-tech industries, Kanata North brings in over $13 billion to Canada’s GDP each year. But according to its members, the secret of the region’s success lies in its mature and connected ecosystem.
Ibrahim Gedeon, chief technology officer of TELUS, says, “Visibility is the starting point. There is an existing ideation, incubation, and acceleration ecosystem that KNBA offers to Canadian tech companies.”
The virtual, physical gateway, and metaphorical heart of that ecosystem is Hub350, which opened its doors in 2021. Hub350 serves as more than a co-working space, in partnership with over 40+ corporate, post-secondary academic institutions, government and finance partners, Hub350 aims to create a connected innovation community and “world class 5G hub”. It is a centre for collaboration and technological advancement in the region, offering collaborative spaces, community-building programming, a media studio, and even an Innovation Zone.
Powered by the TELUS 5G network, KNBA’s purpose-built Innovation Zone is “a place where ideas can be explored, and new products, services, and companies can be incubated,” Mr. Gedeon explains. It’s also where KNBA members can develop and test their new technology for real-world applications, while fueling and expanding the entire park as an essential step in attracting people and companies to Kanata North.
“The TELUS 5G Innovation Zone provides entrepreneurs with the very best experience to test drive their businesses without the need for relocating to other countries, preventing brain drain and retaining Made-In-Canada solutions,” he says.
As such, Hub350′s location is a benefit to the community, too. “Being situated so close to Parliament, Hub350 also gives our political leaders a front-row seat to the important work being done, encouraging policies that foster the innovation and investment landscape and further expedite the technologies of today and for the future,” Mr. Gedeon says.
Finding opportunity and inspiration at Hub350
While Hub350 is ideally located to capture emerging 5G breakthroughs in a variety of industries, it also has a lock on research and innovation via its unparalleled relationships with leading academic institutions like the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Queen’s University, and Algonquin College.
As the purpose-built innovation space for the post-secondary institutions, Hub350 acts as a magnet for business leaders from around the world, particularly in tech fields. It’s the contemporary evolution of Kanata North’s storied history as a destination that international tech talent flocks to for industry-leading opportunity.
KNBA is working diligently to attract even more talent, as well as tech companies in every phase of development from start-up to enterprise level. One new entrant into the Kanata North business park in the past two years is Fullscript, an Ottawa-based health startup that makes it easier for practitioners to prescribe and dispense wellness supplements. After expanding to over 350 employees, Fullscript opened its new office in Kanata North.
It was a strategic move that, according to CEO Kyle Braatz, made sense for the organization.
Given Kanata's "rich history of some really impactful technology and companies," and its concentration of like-minded professionals, "It's easier to run into each other at a local pub, coffee shop, (allowing) for some of those really important connections that you may not get when you are working from home," Mr. Braatz says.
The park also creates experiences and environments that enable teammates to do their best work. “I think that’s why Ottawa has been able to produce such impactful companies,” adds Mr. Braatz. “It’s because of these communities, and it’s the inspiration you get from other entrepreneurs and builders. We gravitate towards each other, and we take just as much pride in seeing others succeed as seeing yourself and your team succeed.”
Partnerships that support innovation
Robust talent attraction, investment in R&D and access to funding opportunities are key pillars of a flourishing and self-sustaining business ecosystem. Royal Bank’s RBCx – the financial anchor partner for Hub350 – brings innovative financial services and expertise expressly for technology entrepreneurs to the park.
Tony Barkett, head of RBCx, calls it “a one-stop shop” for KNBA partners. “Providing a hub where everyone can come to collaborate in a world that’s becoming more and more virtual, actually bringing everyone together, I think is going to help (companies) scale faster,” Mr. Barkett says. “RBCx is helping to facilitate the success of its companies at every stage, from a product and service standpoint.”
It’s this full-service support that drives innovation for all members of KNBA and Hub350. “There are finance partners, academic partners, corporate partners, media partners, there are all these partners brought in to really help companies build that foundation, to put them in the best position to scale not only within Canada, but globally,” Mr. Barkett says.
Mr. Gedeon and Mr. Braatz agree with the sentiment that this community-driven, self-supporting ecosystem has all the right tools for Canadian innovators to go global. The ability to create success stories fosters a cycle of achievement, which has empowered the tech park to breed new ideas, companies, and innovations since its grassroots beginnings in the 1970s.
“Kanata North will continue to be a catalyst for innovative Canadian-led solutions, which has a knock-on effect of attracting a lot of talent,” Mr. Gedeon says. Innovation unlocks barriers, he adds. “Kanata North businesses are creating solutions to real-world problems on the cutting edge.”
What’s next for this vibrant community? Kanata North looks to a future with mixed-use residential and commercial buildings taking shape in the park. The building of space and programming where talent can engage with industry, academic, and corporate partners to solve real world problems is the North Star for the region. This is a time of innovation, development, and growth for Canada’s largest technology park.
As Mr. Braatz notes, “This is a place that’s going to continue to produce world-class companies, not just national success stories.”
To learn more about Hub350 and the KNBA tech ecosystem, visit www.kanatanorthba.com.
To learn more about careers in Canada’s largest technology park, visit www.discovertechnata.com.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with KNBA. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.