Windsor-Essex reinvents the wheel with new automobility innovation cluster

Recipient: WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation (WE EDC)
Region: Windsor-Essex County
Total funding allocated: $5 million

Windsor-Essex County’s VR CAVE is an immersive virtual reality environment where companies can test innovative automotive technologies.
Windsor-Essex County’s VR CAVE is an immersive virtual reality environment where companies can test innovative automotive technologies.

Rooted in more than a century of automotive manufacturing expertise, Windsor has earned its title as the “automotive capital of Canada.” But the automotive sector is evolving and changing—and at an incredible pace. Self-driving technologies, light-weight materials, connected and autonomous vehicles, electrification, artificial intelligence, cyber security and smart traffic equipment are technologies that are driving the auto industry into the future. As a resilient and industrious community, Windsor-Essex is embracing transformation and innovation to remain competitive in this rapidly changing global marketplace.

In the driver’s seat is the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation (WE EDC)—the region’s champion dedicated to growing and sustaining economic prosperity, mainly through encouraging business growth, attracting new businesses to the region and supporting entrepreneurship. With $5 million in support from FedDev Ontario, WE EDC is leading the development of an automobility innovation cluster in the region. Once established, this will help diversify from traditional auto manufacturing to next-generation mobility innovation.

“FedDev Ontario’s investment in the Windsor-Essex automobility cluster has fostered further collaboration within the region, and will enable us to attract new investment, support industry and position our community to be more diverse, innovative and prosperous,” says Stephen MacKenzie, President and CEO, WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation.

WE EDC describes “automobility” as the movement of people and goods through vast technological advancements in the auto industry, as well as in the information and communications technology, transportation and warehousing sectors. As this new sector emerges, transportation is becoming faster, less expensive, cleaner, safer and more efficient.

WE EDC will partner with the University of Windsor, as well as many local organizations, businesses and municipalities to develop, grow and sustain this cluster. Together, they will work to advance new technologies, such as smart traffic equipment, and undertake a pilot project to operate the first bi-national autonomous shuttle.

Overall, this project is expected to support 165 companies, establish 20 new partnerships and create and maintain 665 jobs, while strengthening the region’s competitiveness. It will also facilitate global outreach, with the goal of attracting an estimated $9 million in foreign direct investment, as well as help businesses integrate into global markets.

“Automation and technology are forcing Canada’s automotive industry to be more innovative and keep pace with global changes. Canada’s automotive capital—the Windsor-Essex Region—is positioned to lead the way by transforming itself to be Canada’s automobility capital,” says Shelley Fellows, Vice-President Communications at AIS Technologies Group; Chair of Automate Canada; and, named as one of Automotive News Canada “Canadians to Watch” in 2019.

This initiative comes at a momentous time. With construction of the technologically advanced Gordie Howe International Bridge well underway and Windsor-Essex being designated as one of six Regional Technology Development Sites in Ontario to help spur connected and autonomous vehicles, opportunity abounds. And, with its geographical proximity to Detroit/southeastern Michigan—coined the “global capital of mobility”—the Windsor-Essex Region has a clear opportunity to capitalize on the innovation environment found just over the border.

While reflecting on the rich automotive heritage in this region, Windsor-Essex knows that diversification is key to resilience, and a collaborative effort is needed to realize its full economic potential. By promoting a vibrant ecosystem and embracing automation, smart technologies and innovation, WE EDC aims to make Windsor-Essex a leader in transformative automotive technologies and undergo a global re-brand—becoming the “automobility capital of Canada.”

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FedDev Ontario’s investment in the Windsor-Essex automobility cluster has fostered further collaboration within the region, and will enable us to attract new investment, support industry and position our community to be more diverse, innovative and prosperous.
Stephen MacKenzie, President and CEO, WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation
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