Ottawa Valley tech firm helps safeguard Super Bowl, space missions

Expanded nuclear labs expected to be a boon for Renfrew County businesses
The FlexSpec Backpack

An Ottawa Valley defence and security firm is leveraging Renfrew County’s skilled workforce and high-tech investments to protect some of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Bubble Technology Industries (BTI) develops products that detect explosives and radiation. Used by law enforcement officers and homeland security officials, the firm’s devices have been on space missions and safeguarded Super Bowls, World Series Games and the Olympics, as well as major political events such as US presidential inaugurations.

Despite its global – and extraterrestrial – reach, BTI relies heavily on the expertise and suppliers found close to its Ottawa Valley headquarters.

“We use companies in Renfrew County for things like electronics and mechanical parts,” says Dr. Martin Smith, the firm’s deputy manager of R&D. “We design the devices and we have components of them built by small local companies.”

Since the 1945 opening of Chalk River Laboratories – a nuclear facility owned by the federal government and now operated as the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) – the Ottawa Valley has been a hub for businesses working in nuclear energy, medical and defense technologies.

As a firm focused on nuclear technology, BTI also stands to benefit from the recently announced $1.2 billion revitalization of CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories. In 2015, CNL opened its brand new $55 million hydrogen laboratory complex and in February, CNL released plans to add three new buildings to the campus, including a new logistics complex, business hub and support facility.

Further to that, design work is currently underway on CNL’s Advanced Nuclear Materials Research Centre. Once complete, Chalk River Laboratories will be among the largest active research facilities to be constructed in Canada.

Work-life balance 

Since 1988, BTI’s headcount has grown to approximately 50 staff, including highly-specialized professional scientists and engineers with a range of expertise.

The neighbouring Town of Deep River, where many of BTI’s employees live, is among the most educated communities in Canada. According to the 2016 census data, 75.6 per cent of Deep River’s adult population has a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree, compared to the national average of 54 per cent.

David Wybou, a business development officer with the County of Renfrew, notes these residents benefit from lower housing prices and easy access to large urban centres, as well as abundant outdoor recreational opportunities such as whitewater kayaking, all types of boating, fishing, hiking and skiing.

“We often talk about the wonderful vistas and the clean natural environment. It is spectacular,” Wybou says.

Dr. Smith says these factors are a major draw for BTI staff.

“We really enjoy Renfrew County,” says Dr. Smith, who lives in Deep River. “It’s a great place to work. There’s no traffic, very little pollution and you can see the stars at night.”