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Ontario, Canada: Think North

5 Sep, 2017

By: Brad Duguid
Think North

More and more entrepreneurs and innovators have the North on their minds right now – and in particular, Ontario. That’s because Ontario is open for business – a province that is welcoming to everyone, and open to people from all corners of the world, regardless of nationality or religion.

Ontarians pride themselves on being not just a tolerant society, but one that celebrates its diversity. The province attracts some of the world’s most creative and innovative minds, which leads to a more vibrant business culture and a richer society.

Tech firms, startups and innovation leaders look to Ontario as a leading place to invest.

Diversity isn’t just one of the core values of Ontario, it’s also a competitive advantage. In Toronto, the provincial capital and also Canada’s economic and cultural engine, about 50 percent of citizens are foreign-born, and more than 200 languages are spoken throughout the city. At a time of uncertainty, Ontario is more welcoming than ever, offering a stable and culturally rich place where anyone and everyone can thrive.

Not Your Average Tech Cluster
Ontario’s rising tech cluster didn’t happen by accident. It was born from intentional planning; pulling together the necessary components to create an environment of opportunity for tech companies that are looking to scale up or gain a competitive edge.

The province is an internationally recognized technology hub. Ranked by Forbes in 2016, as the “Best for Business” among G20 countries, it’s never been a better time to do business in Ontario. The province’s tech and innovation ecosystem is humming. Ontario has the second-most ICT firms in North America, behind only Silicon Valley. That’s more than 20,000 firms employing almost 300,000 people across the province.

Ontario is where homegrown giants like BlackBerry, OpenText and Shopify emerged as global leaders, and companies like Slack and Thomson Reuters have chosen to expand their operations.

Ontario is also home to a burgeoning class of Fintech startups, the future connected car and firms producing the latest advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Firms leverage Ontario’s proud history and institutional knowledge as the Canadian capital of finance and automotive production, applying new ideas and technologies to enhance efficiencies and create better consumer experiences.

A Highly Skilled Workforce
A big part of this success is the province’s incredibly rich talent pool. Its 44 universities and colleges produce close to 40,000 top-tier graduates every year in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In fact, the University of Waterloo is the second-largest source of engineering talent on the continent. That, in turn, has helped build the Toronto and Waterloo startup ecosystems, two of the largest in the world.

As one of the world’s most highly educated workforces, Ontario boasts 67 percent of the population achieving post-secondary education – the highest rate among OECD countries. Universities are focused on offering the best STEM programs to students, including 24 colleges that offer specialized programs, with applications in robotics, automation, controls, electronics and mechatronics.

An Eye on the Future
Ontario is the home of the technology of tomorrow.

The province has partnered with firms like IBM Canada to open innovation centers, where established private sector businesses can engage with entrepreneurs, academics and others to produce ideas that will shape the future. This expertise will help small and medium-size enterprises fast-track the launch of new technologies and products to international clients.

Ontario has also created environments that bring together leading thinkers from across the spectrum. The Toronto-based MaRS Discovery District has become the world’s largest urban innovation hub, bringing together educators, researchers, social scientists, entrepreneurs and business experts under one roof. It provides the most promising startups with access to capital so they can scale up by fostering engagement with leading academics from Ontario’s top schools.

One of MaRS’ newest tenants is the Vector Institute, a project that will accelerate the development of AI. Headed by the godfather of deep learning, Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, researchers from the Vector Institute will collaborate with industry partners from a wide range of sectors – healthcare, banking, accounting, insurance, retail, telecommunications, manufacturing, technology, transportation, mining, construction and logistics – to help commercialize AI. Both the Ontario and Federal governments have made significant investments in the Vector Institute.

A Low-Cost Environment
Businesses are ultimately driven by their bottom line. Ontario seeks to ensure that businesses based in Ontario can be competitive in the global marketplace.
Ontario has the lowest corporate tax rate in North America, almost 13 percent lower than the average combined federal-state corporate tax in the United States. When Ontario’s R&D tax incentives are combined with federal tax benefits, ICT companies can expect to reduce every $100 they spend on R&D to between $43 and $60.

If Ontario were a G7 country, it would offer firms the lowest overall business costs.

It’s these conditions that have allowed for companies to flourish in the province, and why many of those graduating from its top-ranked colleges and universities decide to build careers in Ontario. It’s these conditions that have led big names like QNX, Siemens, Uber and Microsoft to push the technological boundaries from north of the border. In fact, seven out of the 10 largest tech companies in the world conduct R&D in Ontario.

Think North
Ontario is a place tech companies can come home to – a place where innovation lives and skilled workers are turning progressive concepts into global solutions.

Ontario offers businesses access to a global confluence of ideas and talent with few rivals. The diversity of ideas and open platform for collaboration is a breath of fresh air that pays homage to the province’s greatest asset – its people. The growing immigrant population, the best and brightest minds in academia and a host of industries from mining to manufacturing, all call Ontario home. It’s also the reason so many companies choose to go North.

At the heart of Ontario’s plan to grow the region is a commitment to boosting innovation through strategic partnerships and ensuring that businesses have the right environment to scale up. The region’s highly skilled, diverse workforce, its welcoming community and other factors such as low business costs have created an atmosphere that enables both startups and global tech leaders to thrive.   T&ID

About the Author

Brad Duguid

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