Earlier this year, Invest Ottawa — a city-funded group that helps promote economic development — appointed business development managers to oversee growth in various clusters of the local high-tech sector.
Bernadette Terryis the senior business development manager for the defence and security sector at Invest Ottawa.
OBJ recently spoke to those managers, as well as a cloud expert, to get their insights into these key areas.
Here is what Bernadette Terry, a senior business development manager at Invest Ottawa, had to say to reporter David Sali about the security sector:
Ottawa’s still a centre of innovation, and that also applies to the defence and security sector. There is quite a lot of crossover – a lot of the companies have expertise in both areas.
The main players in the industry, that hasn’t changed too much. We’ve still got Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.
Because we are spending money on defence here now in Canada, Ottawa’s the natural centre. You’re close to DND headquarters and also the Coast Guard for the national shipbuilding procurement project. That’s $33 billion over 30 years – it’s going to be a long-term opportunity, it’s going to create jobs. And that’s just the actual funding from the government, and that’s estimated. Over time, that will probably increase. Even though we’re in the centre (of the country) and as far as you can get from the sea, we do have a lot of companies in Ottawa with expertise in command-and-control systems and other things that could be put on those ships. We’re supporting companies here, we’re partnering with them, but then we’re also trying to attract large international players here to Ottawa to help grow jobs as well here.
One of the selling points for Ottawa is we’ve got the broad range of companies. You think of any aspect of defence and security, any of the subsectors, you can pretty much guarantee we’ve got at least one company here doing that, everything from unmanned vehicle systems to airport security. Searidge Technologies, for example, has got this really cool application. You could be in Montreal and you could see what’s happening at the Ottawa airport and you could direct traffic. Even generally when a company’s main presence is elsewhere in Canada, such as Marshall Aerospace and Defence, they’ve at least got a representational office here in Ottawa because they need to be close to (government clients).
We’re one of the few western economies that’s actually increasing our defence spending at a time when everyone else is cutting costs. We have to acquire certain equipment ... so there are opportunities.
Even though budgets are being cut in the U.S., there are still huge opportunities. If you look at graphs of the world’s spending in defence and security technologies, the U.S. is up there and then you’ve got Russia, China and then it goes down. The U.S. is by far and away the largest market for our companies. Having said that, they are making some cuts, so we are trying to encourage our companies to look further afield and not put all their eggs in one basket. It’s got to be markets that we actually can get an export licence to, so we are somewhat restricted. Latin America, obviously Australia, Brazil, there’s opportunities there, some parts of Asia.
In my experience, it’s not unusual for smaller companies to be able to export before they can sell into the Department of National Defence here in Canada. There’s more money and opportunity for them in the U.S. Panacis (which designs and manufactures lithium power pack systems for the defence and aerospace industry), we’re working with them and helping them expand internationally.
We’re very fortunate here in Ottawa with the federal government procurement programs. I suppose the challenge might be that historically, they get pushed back and delayed.
My advice to all companies is to diversify and look at other markets. If you sat around waiting for a Canadian defence procurement opportunity, you’d starve to death. Canadian companies have been heavily reliant on the U.S. market historically, and there is still opportunity there. This is a good time now to start (looking at international markets).
TRENDS TO WATCH
The sector moves pretty slowly. Defence programs run over a long period of time. I think there’s a lot of potential for companies in the sector. There are opportunities there, and they are long term.
Everyone’s familiar, for example, with cybersecurity being a huge area of opportunity. We’re already working with companies in that area. In-service support (is another area to watch) ... because once we do get around to acquiring this new equipment, that (field) will be quite lucrative. We haven’t got a shipbuilding industry here right now, and I hope that’s one of the trends. We’re going to help grow that back, and there’s going to be opportunities for Ottawa companies to be a part of that. There’s a real danger that we could be overlooked because all the focus is on the east and the west coast. It’s a national shipbuilding procurement strategy, so there should be equal opportunities for us here.
This interview is part of a six-piece series examining Ottawa's key technology sectors. It originally appeared in the fall edition of Ottawa Technology Magazine.