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Ontario’s aerospace innovations set to soar with new collaboration voucher initiative

September 12, 2013

Rod Jones, Executive Director of the Ontario Aerospace Council, introduces the Ontario Aerospace R&TD Challenge at a forum for Ontario's aerospace sector to discuss areas of technology that are of strategic importance to the sector.

Making commercial aircraft more comfortable, more fuel efficient and cheaper to operate are among the technical challenges Ontario’s aerospace sector will address through a new initiative being administered by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE).

More than 100 people – representatives of the province’s $6.5 billion aerospace sector, academia and government – came together Sept. 9 to discuss how best to address some of the most significant technical challenges facing the aerospace industry through Ontario’s Voucher for Industry Association R&D Challenge (VIA) program.

“We are starting this program at a tremendously positive and exciting time in aerospace,” said Rod Jones, Executive Director of the Ontario Aerospace Council. “If we look at what’s going on in the global marketplace, there’s hardly been a better time. We have in this initiative, a focus on aerospace that I have not seen in my time in the industry.”

Fittingly held across the street from, and within earshot of, Toronto’s busy Pearson International Airport, the event produced a roadmap that will inform how the industry academic collaborations will move forward over the coming two years.

The Ontario Aerospace R&TD Challenge is a $2.5 million program initiative supporting areas of technology that are strategically important to the Ontario aerospace sector. OCE, in partnership with industry and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), will support approximately five qualified projects each lasting up to two years.

According to the OAC, Ontario’s aerospace industry is made up of more than 350 firms employing over 22,000 engineers, technicians, scientists and skilled labourers. About 70 per cent of its output is exported.

The day kicked-off with Dr. Tom Corr, President and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence, noting that Ontario’s aerospace industry is already a key contributor to the province’s economy.

“With its remarkable history of trailblazing, the aerospace sector in Ontario has evolved into one of the province’s and Canada’s most robust and innovative industries,” he said. “Future prospects for the industry and its status as a global leader in aerospace are equally bright. And we are excited about being part of this exceptionally strong partnership that will undoubtedly yield amazing results for Ontario in terms of jobs and economic competitiveness.”

Dan Breitman, a consultant for jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, agreed and hailed the opportunities the collaboration voucher presents for Ontario’s “robust but fragile” aerospace industry.

He said the long return on the billions of dollars invested in research and innovation (sometimes up to 20 years), is the kind of challenge collaboration can address.
“Collaboration creates the technology that helps companies survive and eliminate the fragility,” he said.

The next phase of the Ontario Aerospace R&TD Challenge will be a call for expressions of interest which will be reviewed in November.