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Technopole Defence and Security
From fortress to technopole

When defence, public safety and emergency preparedness issues moved to centre stage in 2001 (forming a market currently valued at $1 trillion), an idea began to take shape at DRDC-Valcartier, the Department of National Defence’s leading research and development centre. The idea? Creating a community of interest centred on technological innovation in the defence and security sector.

Technopole Defence and Security
  • Year founded: 2005
  • Headquarters: Quebec City
  • Number of members: 35
  • Job creation over the next five years: 800 direct and 1,600 indirect jobs
  • Contract value (estimate): CA$185 million
  • Investments over the next five years: CA$45 million in infrastructure

At that time, the Quebec City region boasted a solid foundation of defence and security expertise, with some 80 companies, 6 research centres and 6,000 workers, including 800 researchers. Although there was certainly no shortage of brainpower, there was no real industrial base. “In other words, there was a large gap between what the research centres were doing on the one hand, and the needs of users—military personnel, first responders, etc.—on the other. By speeding up the technology integration, we thought we could bridge the gap and develop products from locally developed technologies, ranging from laboratory prototypes to finished goods delivered in bulk,” says Alain Fecteau, CEO of Technopole Defence and Security (TDS).

The idea of creating a defence and security community of interest gained momentum in 2001 and became reality in 2005 with the launch of TDS—the only technology cluster of its kind in Canada.

Accelerator and facilitator

TDS is headquartered in Quebec City, near the Valcartier military base; a satellite office is located in Ottawa, where most defence contracts in Canada are awarded. In addition to being a self-sustaining non-profit organization, TDS is a nationwide business network bringing together key stakeholders in the defence, public safety and emergency preparedness sectors. It fosters a community of interest that promotes Canadian technological innovations in local and international defence and security markets and facilitates defence technology transfers to the security sector. According to Mr. Fecteau, TDS’s mission is to identify, qualify and promote business opportunities with a view to bringing innovative solutions to the defence and security market by creating strategic partnerships between members, partners and potential users.

TDS’s 35 members (e.g. ABB Analytique, Comlab Telecommunications and the National Optics Institute), work primarily in the IT, communications, optics/photonics and geospatial sectors. They also include research centres, SMEs and integrator companies, i.e. major corporations that receive government defence and security contracts. TDS members benefit from a wide range of services, including business partnership creation, prospecting, market intelligence and marketing.

“While local industries mainly design and develop components, users normally decide to purchase systems. Based on market needs, TDS creates business consortiums that can respond to these opportunities,” says Mr. Fecteau. “In other words, TDS is a business catalyst, accelerator and facilitator. We aim to get our members—SMEs, research centres and integrator companies—working together so they can manufacture systems, land more contracts and boost their defence and security revenues.”

Increasingly popular components

The following are examples of components manufactured by companies from the Quebec City region. Comlab Telecommunications designed and manufactured a printed circuit for a radar-based obstacle detection system used in helicopters; Comlab also develops radar and radio frequency solutions for ships, subway trains and armoured vehicles. ABB Analytique designed and manufactured an interferometer (Fourier transformed infrared analysis system), which is actually a miniaturized module used in satellites. The US government is preparing to send into orbit a new generation of weather satellites, so the interferometer will be at the heart of the new spectrometers that will provide information to US Defence Department and NASA meteorologists and specialists (program costs are estimated at US$11.4 billion). Last but not least, the National Optics Institute (INO) has a long track record of successful innovations, including a thermal weapon sight.

One of TDS’s main goals is to position local companies to win more contracts and to increase their defence, security and emergency preparedness revenues. To this end, TDS developed an economic development strategy in 2006/2007 that aims, among other things, to give the Quebec City region a leading role in the international defence and security sectors. Strategy implementation has received the support of local stakeholders, in addition to financial assistance from the National Capital Regional Innovation Fund.

Conquering global markets

The global defence and public safety markets are massive: CA$1.2 trillion for defence and CA$284 billion for the booming public safety sector. In a bid to expand market share, TDS’s economic development strategy is focused on accelerating technology transfers from the defence to the emergency preparedness sector.

TDS’s strategy is based on three cornerstone initiatives: the Technology Integration Centre, the Market Intelligence Bureau and the Defence and Security District, with the TIC playing the leading role.

As a technology showcase, the Technology Integration Centre (TIC) will facilitate the formation of industrial consortiums among TDS users and members. Since business groupings are one of the key drivers of economic development, the TIC will encourage companies to work together to develop and deliver solutions and technologies tailored to operational requirements. The Market Intelligence Bureau will undertake strategic information activities prior to offering information services to TDS members. These services are crucial since the booming public safety and emergency preparedness sectors are decentralized, and much time can be wasted looking for the right way in! The Bureau will thus be tasked with analyzing these markets and identifying business opportunities before qualifying them and offering them to TDS members. Finally, the Defence and Security District, which will be created in an industrial park adjoining the Valcartier military base, will foster the establishment of businesses and consortiums operating in regional sectors of excellence.

Over the next five years, TDS’s economic development strategy is expected to bring significant benefits:

  • CA$185 million in defence and security contracts will be awarded
  • 800 direct and 1,600 indirect jobs will be created
  • 20 technology transfers will be completed
  • CA$45 million will be invested in infrastructure

Julie Bouchard

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