s a conspicuous demonstration of Canadian technology and talent, Project Arrow debuted to rave reviews in January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. A concept vehicle three years in development, Project Arrow, said one auto industry observer, “delivers on all of its promises, and on time.”
A zero-emission SUV, the futuristic Project Arrow boasts a bevy of new technologies, all developed in Canada. An “open network” computing system designed by a tech company in Kingston functions as its brain. A solar-paneled roof generates sufficient juice to power some of the vehicle’s gaudy functions, which include cybersecurity defenses and a health monitoring system. Capable of going from zero-to-60 mph in under 3.5 seconds, Project Arrow also features wireless charging capabilities and a 3D-printed chassis made by a Toronto-based startup.
In all, nearly 60 Canadian companies took part in a far-flung collaboration described by one official as “Canada’s moonshot.”
“Project Arrow is a true testament to Canadian ingenuity, hard work and determination,” said Raed Kadri, vice president for strategic initiatives and head of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network at the Ontario Centre of Innovation.
“We are cementing on the international stage that Ontario and Canada’s technology, innovation and manufacturing capabilities are world class and second to none.”
Several of the world’s largest automakers already know that Canada has all the components and technical know-how. Since 2018, five original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) — General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Stellantis, and Honda — have combined to invest billions of dollars in EV and hybrid manufacturing. Canada also has attracted multi-billion-dollar investments in the battery manufacturing segments of the EV supply chain — including Stellantis and LG Energy Solution in Windsor, Ontario, and Umicore in Loyalist, Ontario — due in part to the efforts of Invest in Canada, the federal investment attraction and promotion agency.
“Canada is building the economy of the future through bright minds, creative thinking and innovative technologies. Our population is both highly educated and diverse, resulting in a talent pool that’s unlike any other in the world,” said Laurel Broten, CEO of Invest in Canada.
Brimming With Talent
Indeed, it’s the people who count. The Canadian workforce is increasingly recognized as a key differentiator among the world’s leading technology companies and advanced manufacturers. Since 2020, companies including Oracle, Shopify, NVIDIA, IBM, Amazon, Google and Microsoft all have cited the smarts and agility of Canadian workers as reasons for making major investments in Canada.
India’s Infosys, a global leader in digital services and consulting, announced plans in 2021 to double its Canadian workforce to 4,000 employees by the end of 2023, including 500 jobs in Calgary.
“The city is home to a thriving talent pool,” said Infosys President Ravi Kumar. “We will tap into this talent and offer skills and opportunities that will build on the city’s economic strengths.”
Over 60% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 — the primary working age population — have post-secondary education, the highest in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The percentage is even higher among younger Canadians aged 25 to 34, where some two-thirds have post-secondary education, second in the world.
According to the 2022 Tech Talent Scoring Report by the CBRE, Toronto ranked as the third-best city in North America for technology talent, behind only San Francisco and Seattle. Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and the Waterloo region all placed within CBRE’s Top 25.
As an increasingly robust hub for innovation centers and R&D operations, Toronto has drawn recent investments from companies including TikTok, Netflix, Sentry, IBM, Meta and Snapchat. Last May, Microsoft christened its new Canadian headquarters in Toronto, with plans to hire some 2,500 new workers.
“What is incredible is the capacity that we have through our higher education system,” Microsoft Canada President Kevin Peesker told canadianbusiness.com. “We’re producing world-class talent and we’re seeing this at scale where areas like Calgary and Toronto are receiving significant investments.”
How Canada Continues to Aim Higher
It’s of more than passing relevance that APMA’s Project Arrow was designed by a student team at Carleton University in Ottawa and built — with 97% Canadian components — in Oshawa at Ontario Tech University’s Automotive Centre of Excellence.
Those schools are part of Canada’s deep bench of institutions that play on a team whose heavy hitters in engineering include standouts such as the University of Toronto, McGill University, Dalhousie University, the University of New Brunswick, Memorial University of Newfoundland, the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta, the Université de Montreal and the University of Waterloo.
At the same time, Canada has opened the door to skilled workers from around the world. As of 2021, more than 8.3 people — nearly one-fourth of the population — counted themselves as either landed immigrants or permanent foreign residents of Canada. In 2017, the Canadian government launched a pioneering Global Skills Strategy, which created a streamlined process and work permit exemptions for qualified immigrants.
APMA is focusing its workforce recruitment and development efforts on previously untapped streams of talent through a two-year-old Equity, Diversion and Inclusion fund. The program has helped to integrate more than 1,300 workers into the automotive industry.
“We recognized that we were missing out on so much historically excluded talent that had never been able to participate in the sector before,” says APMA Senior Vice President Lauren Tedesco.
“So, how do we attract women and racialized communities and remove the barriers of jumping into an entirely new sector? We have companies knocking on our doors to participate.”
And, Tedesco tells Site Selection, Canada’s potential has served to energize young people who might be considering careers in the EV revolution.
“People are making decisions in high school, and we need to get them talking about automotive,” she says. “Project Arrow has been really fantastic at showcasing that here’s something really cool, something all-Canadian, that we can be proud of. We’re showing students that this is what your future can be.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Invest in Canada, Canada’s global investment attraction and promotion agency. Contact Invest in Canada at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.