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From Site Selection magazine, March 2024
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AI Applications Expand With Recent Investments

ONTARIO
CBRE reports that Toronto-Waterloo’s 9.6% five-year annual growth rate in high tech from 2017 to 2022 was the third highest among North American markets.
Photo: Getty Images

by MARK AREND
U

nilever Canada opened an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lab called “Horizon3 Labs” in Toronto in November to expedite work the global consumer products company already is involved in and to develop new applications across its business. Among the areas in which the company currently uses AI are advanced analytics, supply chain and logistics, marketing and customer service.

Why Toronto? Ultimately, it’s about the tech talent the metro area can deliver.

“It is incredibly exciting that Toronto will be home to Unilever’s first and only global AI Lab,” said Gary Wade, president of Unilever Canada, in a press release issued at the opening. “In selecting Toronto, we will be able to tap into one of the fastest growing AI superclusters in the world with access to best-in-class research facilities and world-class talent while also building off the collaborative power of academia, businesses and government.”       

Unilever Canada worked with Toronto Global, the region’s economic development agency, in siting Horizon3 Labs. “As Canada’s AI powerhouse and the second fastest growing tech workforce in North America, there is no better place to host Unilever’s groundbreaking AI lab than the Toronto Region,” said Toronto Global CEO Stephen Lund at the launch of the lab.

A Med-Tech Company’s Move 

Meanwhile, 67 miles to the southwest in Kitchener, medical technology company FluidAI Medical announced in January a $25 million investment it says will go to product improvements and development of an automated assembly line. The investment will create 38 jobs. The company makes an AI-powered monitor for detecting post-operative leaks.

The company took advantage of Ontario’s Regional Development Program, which supports small and medium-sized businesses in eastern and southwestern Ontario with funds for equipment for expanding their operations. FluidAI Medical was awarded $1.4 million from the program’s Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Competitiveness stream.

““With the Ontario government’s support and funding, we are nurturing local talent and championing innovation right here in Ontario,” said Youssef Helwa, CEO, FluidAI Medical. “Together, we are poised to transform patient care by providing surgeons with advanced AI-powered tools for clinical decision-making.”

Kitchener is part of the Waterloo region. In analysis sent to Site Selection by Colin Yasukochi, executive director of CBRE’s Tech Insights Center, he names Waterloo and fellow Ontario metro area and national capital Ottawa among North America’s 10 hottest tech hubs, noting that the two markets “had the highest share of tech employment as a percentage of office jobs in 2022. Waterloo had 21,100 high-tech jobs, comprising 29.5% of office employment, while Ottawa’s share was slightly lower at 27.1%.” Waterloo experienced 15% year-over-year tech employment growth.

The Toronto-Waterloo megaregion was labeled a “powerhouse market” for tech talent in the 2024 edition of CBRE’s Global Tech Talent Guidebook, released in February. Among the findings: The region’s working-age population of just over 5 million was greater than the Bay Area’s and trailed that of only seven other global metros in terms of share of population.

Among North American markets, Toronto-Waterloo’s 9.6% five-year annual growth rate in high tech from 2017 to 2022 was the third highest behind only Austin and Vancouver. 

Mark Arend
Editor Emmeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.

 



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