Canada Promotes Its Aerospace Clusters

Farnborough Air Show » 2012
July 9, 2012, 12:00 PM

This year’s Canadian aerospace presence at Farnborough is larger than ever, with nearly 130 organizations attending. Although some companies have their own stands, the national pavilion (Canadian Pavilion, Hall 4 Stand C17-19), one of the largest at the show, reflects the diversity of the country’s aerospace and defense sector and, in particular, the capabilities of its regional clusters.

Many of the companies responsible for delivering specialized products and services, as well as innovative SMEs anxious to expand, have been able to take advantage of the attractive business investment environment created by the regional governments and trade promotion agencies. One example of what is being done is Aero Montreal, which has launched its “Mach” initiative designed to optimize the performance of Quebec’s aerospace supply chain and to increase its global competitiveness.

Across the country, the Western Canada Aerospace & Defence Industries clusters are working in partnership with Western Economic Diversification, with the support of the governments of British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan, to exploit the region’s abundant resources, low costs and conditions, which are ideal for research, test and evaluation activities. Another advantage is their close proximity to U.S. aerospace companies.

Lucie Boily, v-p policy and competitiveness at the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), pointed out that the Canadian aerospace sector achieved manufacturing revenues of $23.2 billion last year, with exports worth over $17 billion, ranking it number five in the world. Some 84.3 percent of revenue came through civil sales and 15.7 percent from military work. Retaining the level of research and development and capital investment in the sector at a time of global uncertainty is regarded as a national strength, and Canada’s booming economy has allowed this to increase slightly to $2 billion. The location of the aerospace clusters within Canada is partly historical, grouped close to the major aircraft manufacturing and maintenance, repair and overhaul centers, but they are increasingly expanding around new centers of excellence in specialist areas of activity, such as composite structures, space and unmanned air vehicles, and also where high quality academic facilities are located.

The regional aerospace clusters are focused on Quebec (51.9 percent), Ontario (28.9 percent), West Canada (13.6 percent) and Atlantic Alliance (5.6 percent). The Atlantic region, comprising Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, has seen much progress in developing specialist products from SMEs which are now winning contracts from global aerospace manufacturers, helped by their ability to exploit the investment incentives which assist growth. As well as tier-one and two suppliers, new technology products and services are emerging, especially in the fields of computerized design and advanced manufacturing processes. Appropriately, many of the cluster companies have booths alongside, or close by, their trade association and government stands.

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