Part of what makes Canada’s automotive sector such a lucrative part of the industrial landscape is its significant contribution to research, development and innovation. Canada has become a global hub for engineers, developers and innovators as well as a leader in ground-breaking advances in electric vehicle technology, battery development, lightweight materials, secure communications and artificial intelligence.
The Canadian Automobility Hub23 in Windsor, Ontario is the latest innovation project funded in part through an array of federal and provincial support programs. These programs aim to solidify Canada as a global automotive technology “accelerator,” attracting teams of engineers, designers and developers to support and commercialize new technologies. Ontario is not alone. Quebec is also home to a burgeoning battery supply chain and is home to the country’s largest automotive testing and research centre funded through Transport Canada.24 Domestic auto- and parts-makers also engage in direct research, development and testing at various facilities across the country, including Stellantis’ Automotive Research and Development Centre in Windsor, Ford’s Research and Engineering Centre in Ottawa25 and General Motos’ autonomous vehicle test track in Oshawa.26
While encouraging, more research and development support on its own will not fix Canada’s automotive challenges. Global companies often take advanced technologies and put them to work in low-cost foreign jurisdictions. Assisting Canadian-based companies to upgrade their technical and engineering capacities and develop and produce new products can generate some clear economic benefits here at home.
24 The Quebec test facility is operated by PMG Technologies for Transport Canada: http://www.pmgtest.com/about-us
25 Canadian Vehicle and Manufacturers Association provides an overview of the various Detroit Three research and testing facilities here: https://www.cvma.ca/priorities/innovation/research-and-development/
26 See information on GM’s CTC McLaughlin Advanced Technology Track here: https://www.gm.ca/en/home.detail.html/content/Pages/news/ca/en/2021/Feb/0217_canadian-engineers-can-now-test-vehicles.html
Governments in Canada offer a range of investment supports for sector-wide research and development, including through the Strategic Innovation Fund and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program. Provincial government programs make sizeable contributions like Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Research and Development Partnership Fund and Quebec’s capital financing arm Investissement Québec. It is critical that public investments provided to auto industry players, from larger Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to small start-up technology firms help grow Canada’s production footprint and employment in Canada’s auto industry.