CEO, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada
NGen facilitates ground-breaking discoveries across the Canadian manufacturing industry, merging technology with useability.
The advancements in our daily lives are nothing less than spectacular. Yet, while we often attribute these successes to the underlying technologies, many of these advancements wouldn’t be a reality without the manufacturers who bring them to life — perhaps the unsung heroes in societal progress.
The manufacturing industry could very well be considered the lifeblood of innovation. Most Canadians don’t question where their goods come from or how they’re developed — we simply reap the benefits of advancements we didn’t even know we needed. Electric cars, 3D printing, and even vaccines — are all important components of 20th-century living; all made possible through manufacturing.
Manufacturing in a fast-moving world
The manufacturing industry has been forced to adapt to fit our lifestyle — integrating new and evolved processes to meet rapidly changing consumer demands. Advanced manufacturing is an iteration of this evolution, representing the integration and use of leading-edge technologies to improve manufacturing performance. This includes technological advancements, but this also represents how companies manage that technology and integrate it into their processes and develop the skill sets to use it commercially. From nanotechnologies to biomanufacturing, as the world continues to progress at an unimaginable speed, the global economy has been forced to accept just how instrumental advanced manufacturing is in solving some of humanity’s most complex problems.
As a country, Canada is uniquely positioned to become a leader in advanced manufacturing — something the NGen Supercluster has built into its mission.
Our carbon conversion platform will produce materials of the future domestically, create highly skilled local jobs, and accelerate the world’s transition toward a circular economy. Our vision of producing sustainable materials from organic waste is made possible through the support of organizations like NGen.Luna Yu, CEO of Genecis Bioindustries
Advancing technology through collaboration
Over the last five years, NGen has worked to create a network of companies across the manufacturing ecosystem, opening doors to collaborations between organizations and industries, facilitating these connections and helping lead the future of advanced manufacturing in Canada. Put simply, NGen helps companies within the manufacturing sector better communicate with one another. As well, membership in NGen allows companies to better understand other member organizations, often finding synergies and areas of opportunity. Its members include manufacturers from every sector of the industry: IT and software companies, AI companies, nanotechnologies, and biotechnology, and it has resulted in advancements like negative carbon building materials and robotic operations to mine oxygen on the moon.
“It’s about building unique manufacturing capabilities here in Canada that we can not only commercialize and benefit from economically, but that improve quality of life for Canadians” says Jayson Myers, CEO of Next Generation Manufacturing Canada.
Solutions to environmental challenges
As environmental impact becomes an area that requires more focus, the advanced manufacturing industry is sure to play a leading role in developing technologies and practices that help companies work in a way that reduces impact and creates more sustainable practices overall. To accomplish this, companies and industries will have to work together, something that NGen is well-positioned to facilitate.
“Manufacturing is the practice of making things, but we must make things that will help solve some of the world’s problems. Improving health care, reducing emissions, and improving environmental performances are challenges that are becoming more daunting, so the role and opportunities for manufacturing are more important than ever,” says Myers.
Companies will have to work together to find realistic solutions to some of these problems. “We’re not going to be able to commercialize these opportunities unless we develop workable solutions for the industry that takes a collaborative approach,” Myers says. “Sustainability won’t be driven by technology alone; it’s how that technology is adopted by industrial customers.” It’s working. Sixty per cent of NGen projects aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a result of their project outcomes.
Breaking down industry barriers
Collaboration has been one of the key successes of NGen so far. As Myers notes, many Canadian businesses don’t realize the capabilities available to them in Canada. NGen focuses on breaking down barriers to partnership, introducing companies together and helping them find economic parallels. Instead of leaning on a technology push approach, whereby manufacturing organizations adopt predeveloped technology, the idea is technology companies can work directly with industry customers, creating customized solutions that work better for the manufacturers directly. Myers refers to this as an industry-led approach.
“Industry or manufacturing companies want engineered solutions to their problems,” he says. “Tech companies may not always see the bigger picture until they work directly with the manufacturers themselves. NGen helps facilitate these collaborations.” Watching these collaborations come to life is the “fun part,” according to Myers.
NGen is far more than a funding mechanism. It works to help spark the development of world-leading projects and commercialize these for use in Canada and globally. While Canadians may not be a part of the process, we certainly experience the rewards. NGen has spearheaded some of the most innovative advancements propelling Canada forward from fully automated AI food processing facilities to a world-class biomanufacturing plant.
It’s not just about finding easier ways to work; it’s about finding ways that will lead to lasting change for the environment and for us as humans. “Manufacturing processes that print brain tissue for laboratory use or new stem cell therapies,” Myers says. “These innovations are helping to save lives.”