When Waterloo Region rallies to support business meetings and events, they don’t fool around.
May 2023 the region hosted Innovate Canada, an exclusive Destination Canada Business Events (DCBE) gathering with a focus on advanced manufacturing. 

Explore Waterloo Region’s hosting proposal stood head and shoulders above others for three key reasons: the region’s breadth of expertise within the advanced manufacturing sector and the potential for curated site tours; local stakeholder support for the event; and Waterloo Region’s commitment to sustainable business gatherings, says Virginie De Visscher, Senior Director of Business Development, Economic Sectors, Destination Canada Business Events

“We couldn’t do this event on our own. It really takes an entire community and Waterloo Region demonstrated it is a solid, unified group that collaborates,” De Visscher says. 

Why Waterloo? Partners Working Together 

Advanced manufacturing is a key sector in Waterloo’s economy. It didn’t take much convincing when Explore Waterloo Region first bounced the idea of hosting DCBE’s annual event. “Our proposal came together smoothly and I would attribute that to the great partners and collaboration we have here within the region,” explains Jennifer Eddings, Director of Business Development, Explore Waterloo Region.

“Innovate Canada 2023 provided an opportunity to showcase the global strength of Waterloo’s advanced manufacturing sector to key business executives and decision makers,” says Tony La Mantia, President and CEO, Waterloo Economic Development Corporation (Waterloo EDC). “Waterloo is a unique, dynamic and diverse community with strength in both technology and manufacturing, which has enabled us to be the largest robotics and automation cluster in Canada. We have significant scale and density in automotive, aerospace and food manufacturing.” 

Meaningful Experiences 

Pre-qualified, C-suite executives from international associations and corporations were invited to attend Innovate Canada along with industry journalists and representatives of all seven Canadian advanced manufacturing centres of excellence: Waterloo, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal. A total of about 40 attendees took part in the event. 

Site visits and sector tours were key components of the week’s activities. Attendees took part in immersive and meaningful experiences with Explore Waterloo Region partnering with Waterloo EDC to curate the tours. Attendees had the opportunity to explore the University of Waterloo RoboHub, Otto Motors, ATS Automation, and Conestoga College’s SMART Manufacturing & Advanced Recycling Technologies.   

Four delegates of the Innovate Canada - advanced Manufacturing Conference tour through the University of Waterloo's RoboHub

Innovate Canada delegates speak with students while touring through the University of Waterloo’s RoboHub

“Delegates were able to see first-hand the depth and breadth of our advanced manufacturing and tech ecosystem,” La Mantia explains. “Multinational companies have all chosen to grow their organizations here and the Innovate Canada delegates gained an understanding of why during their visit.” 

Innovate Canada also included plenty of time for one-to-one appointments between client attendees and participating partners, and Explore Waterloo Region sponsored an evening event to showcase the region’s rich culture and farm-to-table culinary scene. 

Creating an Event Within an Event 

Innovate Canada attendees also attended a local Manufacturing Summit hosted by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. The summit provided a forum to connect delegates with local innovators. 

Chamber president and CEO, Ian McLean, explains that he first heard about the Innovate Canada proposal during a meeting of the Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region, which meets regularly to share information of common interest. When Explore Waterloo Region asked whether he would adjust the Manufacturing Summit’s 2023 date so it aligned with Innovate Canada, “I was happy to,” McLean says. “We have manufacturers, supply chain and other professionals from right across southern Ontario who attend our summit.” 

A Commitment to Sustainability 

Waterloo Region is a leader in sustainability. During the event, Explore Waterloo Region delivered sustainability at every step, from locally and responsibly sourced food choices and limiting single-use items, to low-waste measures and green transportation options. These and other planet-friendly practices helped tip the scales in Waterloo’s favour, says De Visscher.  

“Explore Waterloo Region demonstrated they have the knowledge and infrastructure to provide a carbon neutral event. As Destination Canada is pursuing its Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan, it was very important to work with a partner that believed in it too,” says De Visscher. “The Innovate Canada conference in Waterloo was a milestone event, as it was our first carbon neutral Innovate Canada event.” 

A server delivers a vegetarian meal to a table of attendees of the Innovate Canada conference
Serving up a sustainable lunch at Kitchener’s Graffiti Market during Innovate Canada

Eddings assisted Destination Canada in ensuring Innovate Canada was carbon -neutral by providing venue, restaurant, and transportation recommendations:  

  • The off-site venue used for Destination Canada’s signature event was the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum – a LEED Certified Building.  
  • All lunches were vegetarian, which resulted in a smaller environmental footprint and fewer greenhouse gas emissions (and, as Eddings pointed out, the locally-sourced lunches were so delicious attendees didn’t even notice they were 100% vegetarian!) 
  • Electric Vehicles were used for airport transfers. Attendees also used Light Rail Transit (LTR), e-bikes and e-scooters for local travel. 
  • Organizers and attendees paid carbon-offsets for travel to and from the conference. 

“Some people aren’t convinced sustainable events are important,” says Eddings. “For those people, it may not be enough to say it’s good for the planet…but what if it’s good for business and offers a competitive edge? Being an advocate for planet-friendly events shows clients and potential customers you care and that attracts new opportunities.”    

Another key factor in Explore Waterloo Region’s successful bid to host Innovate Canada was the way Explore Waterloo Region personalized its proposal to meet Destination Canada’s unique needs for the conference.  

“They spoke to us and what we were looking for. Not everybody does that,” De Visscher explains. “Do they think outside the box? Yes! But even more so, they really understand their audience.” 

To learn more about hosting your event in Waterloo Region contact: 
Jennifer Eddings, Director of Business Development, Explore Waterloo Region 
[email protected] 

Robots sitting on a shelf at the University of Waterloo's RoboHub
Robots at the University of Waterloo’s RoboHub

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