A robot in every factory: The $230-million bid to help automate Ontario’s manufacturing sector

The centrepiece of Canada’s innovation strategy is the $950-million “supercluster” initiative. The goal, according to the federal government, is for companies of all sizes, academia and the non-profit sector to collaborate on new technologies, to spur economic growth and create jobs. As part of the Innovation Nation series, the Financial Post is taking an in-depth look at each of the five regional projects, and provide continuing coverage of their progress. You can find all of our coverage here.

The effort to jumpstart the growth of Ontario’s advanced manufacturing sector, such that even cookie factories and printing shops could soon be using robots and self-driving vehicles, started in earnest around December 2016.

That’s when consulting firm McKinsey & Co. produced a short report that concluded “the Toronto-Waterloo region has the potential to become one of the world’s top innovation ecosystems,” on par with Silicon Valley. That got people talking.

“It was the first report of its kind,” said Jan Da Silva, chief executive of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, who began hosting a series of formal and informal discussions with executives from the manufacturing and technology sectors in southern Ontario.

About six months later in May 2017, the federal Liberal government announced its intention to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in “innovation superclusters,” essentially densely concentrated business sectors that could possibly evolve into larger economic engines with a little more investment.

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