Meet Ottawa: engineered for conferences

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Meet Ottawa: engineered for conferences

Lesley Mackay, Director of Meetings and Events at Ottawa Tourism, explains why engineers feel right at home when they meet in Canada’s capital city


If Canada were a city, Ottawa would be it. As the country’s capital, Ottawa is a city that tells the stories of Canada like no other. It’s the place where Canadians gather to celebrate their shared heritage. And it’s a region of natural beauty, crisscrossed by rivers, waterways, parks and parkways. 

But don’t be fooled by its good looks. Ottawa’s also got a ton of smarts. 

Ottawa is the most technology intensive city in Canada, with over 10% of its workforce employed in information and communications technology (ICT). International tech giants and up-and-coming local start-ups alike call the city home – from Amazon, Apple and Nokia, to Shopify, Klipfolio and Mindbridge.

Ottawa-based researchers, scientists and developers are building game-changing solutions in today’s disruptive technologies, from autonomous vehicles to artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, next-generation networks and cybersecurity. This R&D community is supported by 65 government research labs and fuelled by graduates from STEM programs at six local post-secondary institutions.  

Ottawa’s deep pedigree in communications and software development provides a foundation for initiatives like smart cities, smart agriculture and smart grid. Autonomous vehicles have already been tested here on city streets tied in with city infrastructure, and the city’s four-season climate makes it ideal for developing AV for all weather conditions. Work has likewise begun on a test site for smart agriculture, integrating AV and unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) technologies.

The brains behind all of this belong to the second highest concentration of engineers and scientists in North America. Ottawa Tourism, the city’s destination marketing organisation (DMO), years ago recognised the potential for mining the local engineering community for contacts who could champion the capital as a meeting destination for conferences and gatherings devoted to engineering research.

The strategy has paid off, as the city has won the right to host increasing numbers of engineering conferences. This November, Ottawa will host the Canadian Aerospace Summit 2018.

Ottawa Tourism recently partnered with the National Research Council (NRC) to win the right to host a major international aerospace engineering conference still to be announced.

Leveraging the city’s engineering ecosystem, Ottawa Tourism has also built a close relationship with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) which has already resulted in the city hosting a number of important conferences.

Going forward, IEEE will bring at least three additional major conferences to Ottawa: 2019 IEEE International Conference on Wireless for Space and Extreme Environments; 2019 IEEE International Conference on Information Fusion; and the 2021 IEEE Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference…with more still to be announced.