Revving up Canada’s first automobility accelerator

Recipient: Invest WindsorEssex
Region: Windsor-Essex
Funding allocated: $7.5 million

A view of the exterior of the 'Invest Windsor Essex' building

Known as North America's manufacturing powerhouse, Windsor-Essex is a leader and innovator in advanced manufacturing and a hub for the automotive industry. The region is home to more than 1,000 manufacturers and responsible for $4.5 billion in annual GDP. Windsor-Essex also boasts the largest cluster of tool, mold and automation companies in North America, who are at the forefront of innovative and globally competitive technologies.

Drawing on these established roots and with an eye to the future, Invest WindsorEssex (IWE) the lead economic development agency for the region, set its sights on establishing Canada’s first world-class automobility accelerator. IWE is a not-for-profit organization supported by the City of Windsor and the County of Essex. This regional initiative brings together partners from academia, local government, and entrepreneurship to foster continued growth in the automobility sector.

“The Windsor-Essex region is the “Automobility Capital of Canada,” explains Stephen MacKenzie, President and CEO of IWE. “Capitalizing on our bi-national location, highly skilled workforce and growing automobility sector, allows us to continue to encourage diversification and continued prosperity in Windsor-Essex.”

Thanks to a FedDev Ontario non-repayable contribution of $7.5 million, IWE is making that dream a reality. With this investment, IWE will establish Canada’s first automobility accelerator, offering a full spectrum of first-in-Canada training and other programming to support 1,350 automobility entrepreneurs, scaling firms and established companies. Tailored to the needs of start-ups and scale-ups in the automobility ecosystem, with a focus on electric vehicles (EV), connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), and cybersecurity firms, this support will help entrepreneurs to accelerate the commercialization of their technologies while positioning the region as a hub for automobility innovation and investment.

To support this project, IWE has brought together key stakeholders in the Windsor-Essex region, including the City of WindsorCounty of EssexSt. Clair CollegeUniversity of Windsor and WEtech Alliance, combining their broad expertise to develop secure, zero emissions vehicle technologies. The project will also have far-reaching benefits for the local economy, with FedDev Ontario’s investment leveraging an additional $12.3 million in private sector and other matching funding and attracting $40 million in new foreign direct investment to the region.

"This funding will help us stay competitive in a rapidly changing auto market,” said Drew Dilkens, Mayor for the City of Windsor. “It will [also] allow us to continue the excellent work underway to position ourselves as a leader in the fourth industrial revolution.”

Considering “automobility” refers to the secure, zero-emission movement of people, goods and services using advanced information technologies, the project also comes with environmental benefits, such as new clean technologies for the EV and CAV industry. It is this type of innovation and action that will help Canada meet the priorities outlined in Budget 2021, achieving its plan for a green recovery that fights climate change and builds a net-zero economy by investing in world-leading technologies that make industries cleaner.

This most recent funding builds on an initial $5-million FedDev Ontario investment, announced in September 2019 to help IWE establish and catalyze the growth of a next-generation automobility cluster, attract investment to the region and create jobs of the future. The project initiated over 30 partnerships and projects to date, resulting in more than 300 new jobs and nearly $50 million in funds leveraged for the region.

With many industries pivoting to focus on building domestic capacity and domestic manufacturing in light of the pandemic, this announcement comes at a critical time. Together, alongside FedDev Ontario, the Windsor-Essex region will be able to further its potential by anchoring its growth around a developing automobility cluster – accelerating automobility entrepreneurship, clean growth, innovation and building resilience for the future.

"This will be transformational," said MacKenzie. “This investment from FedDev Ontario builds upon the success of our existing initiatives and allows us to develop new action plans and enhance current programming in the automobility entrepreneurship space.”

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This will be transformational. This investment from FedDev Ontario builds upon the success of our existing initiatives and allows us to develop new action plans and enhance current programming in the automobility entrepreneurship space.
Stephen MacKenzie, President and CEO of Invest WindsorEssex.