Markham: Powering next generation auto innovation

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Markham, a dynamic, diverse and fast-growing city in the heart of the Greater Toronto Area, is home to powerful cluster of automotive innovation that is bringing the future to life.

Combining excellence as Canada’s second-largest technology hub with the presence of a growing number of automotive leaders, Markham brings together world-class talent, a culture of research and collaboration and a reputation as a business-friendly city within a diversified and thriving economy.

“Innovation is our central way of life in Markham, with one of the greatest number of patents per capita in Canada, according to the World City Council on Data. The city has a highly educated and skilled workforce in technology, automotive, life sciences, financial services, design and engineering, science, and information and cultural sectors,” said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti.

The city is a leader in attracting foreign direct investment, with more than 240 international companies.
The city’s automotive sector includes 440 businesses, employing about 6,000 people in parts manufacturing, distribution, wholesaling and dealership, and innovation.

Prominent automotive employers include Honda Canada, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Tesla, Multimatic, Magna Pullmatic, Weins Canada, NOVO Plastic, Murata Power Solutions, Mobis, Veoneer, NGK, and Racetronix.

On the innovation front, major auto manufacturers are leveraging Markham’s technology infrastructure and ecosystem to produce cutting-edge advances in electric vehicles, next-generation self-driving cars, sustainable batteries, green energy, and advanced manufacturing.

Local innovation leaders include GM Canada, Qualcomm and Bluewrist.

And the city’s new employment district Markham Innovation Exchange (also called MiX), which connects knowledge to production by attracting high-tech collaborators and manufacturers devoted to future growth, will provide exciting growth opportunities for Markham’s advanced auto industry.

MiX’s expansive size (1,920 acres), scope and location in the core of Canada’s biggest economic region makes it unlike any other industrial park in the country.

GM’s Canadian Technical Centre

The Canadian Technical Centre is General Motors’ second largest automotive software engineering and development cluster in North America.

Its engineers and software developers in Markham are focused on automated driving, electrification, next-generation infotainment systems, and new technologies for mobility solutions.

“We saw a clear path to innovation and execution in Markham,” says Ted Graham, head of open innovation at GM Canada.

In his role, Graham works with start-ups, universities, incubators, and accelerators to further the future of mobility. There is a rich ecosystem in Markham to draw from, he says, and there is ready access to high-quality engineering and software development experts.

Nearly 700 employees belong to the CTC Markham campus, a 150,000-square-foot site that features stateof-the-art labs and innovation spaces.

Key projects in Markham include software development for BrightDrop, GM’s technology startup helping decarbonize last-mile deliveries, as well as hands-free driver assistance systems like Super Cruise and active safety features like Lane Keep Assist, which is tested on the CTC McLaughlin Advanced Technology Track in nearby Oshawa.

“The future is zero crashes, zero congestion and zero emissions,” said Graham. “That future is closer than many people think.”

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Qualcomm Technologies Inc.

Known for its system-on-a-chip semiconductor products found in billions of mobile devices, Qualcomm Canada is applying that expertise to the automotive sector through its Markham office.

The company, which employs 41,000 people worldwide, has been advancing technology in in-vehicle communications, entertainment and Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) in Markham since 2009. Qualcomm currently has an automotive design-win pipeline of US$13 billion.

“A big story for Qualcomm is automotive,” said Sai-Kit Eng, senior director of engineering operations at Qualcomm Canada.

“We are the No. 1 semiconductor supplier for telematics, automotive connectivity and infotainment systems and a leading provider of ADAS solutions. All the systems that allow you to make phone calls or be navigated by GPS or to play music, all of that comes through chips.”

Virtually every carmaker in the world uses Qualcomm products.

Not even a global pandemic has slowed growth at the Markham facility, which grew from 300 to 470 employees over the last two years.

“Markham provides excellent access to government research and development incentives and high-quality opportunities that attracts engineering talent from around the world,” said Eng.

“That allowed the creation of a centre of excellence in artificial intelligence and machine learning and automotive applications here in Markham. We believe demand is only going to grow in this space as 5G and artificial intelligence combine to connect vehicles to each other and to the road.”

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Bluewrist provides 3D-vision-based robotics platforms for automated quality control systems and advanced guidance systems in the automotive sector. It is deploying its solutions around the world to components manufacturers and OEMs, including licensing its proprietary software through a new subsidiary Unblink3D.

Bluewrist platforms use 3D vision and AI to look for defects in welds, surfaces, connectors and fasteners that, if left undetected, could lead to critical safety issues and costly recalls. Vision-based robotic guidance solutions also automate many dangerous and repetitive tasks and help improve factory productivity and output.

“Our technology is leading class and field tested,” said CEO Najah Ayadi.

The company was founded in 2006 and has been in Markham for 12 years. Ayadi says moving to Markham was an easy decision.

“Markham is the innovation capital of Canada. It’s the Silicon Valley of Canada,” he said. “It’s also a great place to work, to live, to have fun and to play.”

Most of Bluewrist’s 50 employees live in the city, which has great connectivity to the region, offers a highly skilled workforce and is home to a strong automotive technology sector, he says.

“We have found many businesses in Markham that want to partner with us.”

Bluewrist has been recognized for four straight years as one of Canada’s Top Growing Companies, achieving three-year revenue growth of 142 per cent.

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