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Life Sciences

Ottawa’s life sciences sector has emerged into the global market as a center of discovery, development and commercialization. Headquarters to Canada’s federal government, including departments directly responsible for health regulation, protection, promotion and research funding, the city provides an ideal base for innovation support. With a strong combination of academic research, centres of excellences, access to world leading hospitals and industry, the nation’s capital provides a lucrative environment for leading-edge products, technologies and innovations.

Ottawa research hospitals provide a strong base for research and development (R&D) in the region. In fact, out of 40 top Canadian hospital research institutions, five are in Ottawa. Combined, their research spending reached $180 Million for 2015. Additionally,the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (OHRI) is Canada’s largest cardiovascular research centre and ranks in the top 3 per cent of worldwide research institutions based on the quality and impact of their scientific publications. Continuing Ottawa’s long-standing history of innovation and entrepreneurship, the Ottawa Hospital has produced seven spin-off companies and six world leading clinical trials from 2015-2016.

With world-leading medical discoveries, Ottawa has become home to two national life science Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) all active in supporting large-scale, academic-led research programs to accelerate R&D and commercialization. They include:

  • The Stem Cell Network, Canada’s premier research organization dedicated to enabling the translation of stem cell research into clinical applications, commercial products and public policy
  • Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment (BioCanRx), pan-Canadian network of expertise and infrastructure for the development, manufacture and clinical testing of new personalized biotherapeutics that hold the promise of being more effective, affordable and safe than conventional cancer therapies

Holistically, Ottawa’s life science landscape encompasses strong R&D capabilities and companies of every size with expertise in Health IT, mHealth, eHealth and Medical Devices. A sample of industry leaders in Ottawa include; Nordion, DNA Genotek, and Best Theratronics.

To learn more, visit: Life Sciences

For further information, please contact Invest Ottawa:

7 Bayview Road,
Ottawa, ON K1Y 2C5


With a history of successful technology companies, world class R&D capability, an entrenched culture of innovation, and support for businesses of all sizes, software is flourishing in Ottawa. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), data analytics, and artificial intelligence based solutions are under development at companies across the city, powering innovative technologies like autonomous vehicles, e-commerce, Smart City initiatives, and the Internet of Things.

Anchored by the top five (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM and EMC-Dell) enterprise software vendors, and homegrown global champions (Blackberry QNX, ProntoForms, You.i TV, Martello Technologies and Page Cloud), Ottawa is a world-class hub of software capability and innovative trailblazers.

With high a performing technology sector, Ottawa is a leader in scaling companies and taking them to the public markets. Consequently, homegrown software companies including Halogen, Kinaxis and Shopify raised more money in the public markets than every other city in Canada combined for the last five years. Coupled with Canada’s first enterprise SaaS accelerator (L-SPARK), and leading Canadian SaaS conference (SaaS North), Ottawa is the top destination for global innovation and technology talent.

To learn more, visit: Software

For further information, please contact Invest Ottawa:

7 Bayview Road,
Ottawa, ON K1Y 2C5

Digital Media

Ottawa’s digital media cluster specializes in a wide range of activities from gaming and animation to virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Drawing upon local talent and leveraging a wide range of government incentives, Ottawa companies have pioneered industry-leading and internationally recognized gaming and animation productions.

Ottawa-based digital media companies can develop globally competitive cost structures with the aid of industry-specific tax credits. Examples include the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit (OIDMTC), the Ontario Film & Television Tax Credit (OFTTC) and the Ontario Computer Animation and Special Effects Tax Credit (OCASE). Combined with other lucrative tax credits such as the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED), Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), Canada Media Fund (CMF), and Ontario Centres of Excellence, the nation’s capital can support your commercialization success with a strong financial foundation.

Coupled with access to top tier talent from Algonquin College’s Animation Program, the University of Ottawa’s Modelling and Animation for Computer Games Technology program, and Carleton University’s Computer Game Development and Interactive Multimedia Design programs – Ottawa provides the right mix and network of industry specialists, thought-leaders, innovators and artists to create award winning productions.

With vast capabilities to compete on the global stage, the nation’s capital has become the best-kept secret to major studios such as Disney, Dreamworks, Hasbro, Teletoon, Pixar and Nascar, which historically have partnered with studios across Ottawa. Additionally, the cross-pollination of software strengths and digital media artistry has formed a vibrant ecosystem for Virtual Reality.

To learn more, visit: Digital Media

For further information, please contact Invest Ottawa:

7 Bayview Road,
Ottawa, ON K1Y 2C5

Communications Technology

Ottawa is an established, internationally recognized centre of excellence in communications technology, which continues to shape the wireless industry worldwide. Home to the top five mobile backhaul equipment market vendors, the top 10 optical network hardware vendors and 90 per cent of telecommunications research, Ottawa is a global leader developing the future of communication networks.

Accelerating the growth of this cluster in Ottawa are a plethora of research and development (R&D) facilities like:

  • Communications Research Centre (CRC), a federally-funded centre of excellence specializing in wireless telecom
  • Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre (CPFC), the only pure play optical fabrication centre in North America
  • Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks (CENGN), brings together the supply chain of multinational industry leaders and removes barriers to commercialization by providing access to a world-class platform for validating advanced products, applications and services
  • David Florida Laboratory, the Canadian Space Agency’s spacecraft assembly, integration and testing centre
  • Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), Canada’s leader in defence and security science and technology (S&T)

These R&D centres play a crucial role in complementing commercially deployable research to locally based companies like Blackberry’s QNX, Huawei, Nokia, Cisco, Ciena which invest in R&D, grow the talent pool, and attract investment.

To learn more, visit: Communications Technology

For further information, please contact Invest Ottawa:

7 Bayview Road,
Ottawa, ON K1Y 2C5

Clean Technologies

Poised to be a leader in the development and advancement of clean technologies, Canada is attracting international attention serving clients at home and abroad. In fact, 57 per cent of cleantech revenues come from international clients like China, U.S. and India who are collectively responsible for half of global clean energy investment in 2016 (C$348 billion). With immense economic potential, the government of Canada has prioritized clean technology innovation, which will support research, development and demonstration activities

Situated within the province of Ontario, which hosts 10 per cent more cleantech companies than any province in Canada, Ottawa has a well-positioned geographic advantage. As Canada’s most educated city, home to the highest concentration of scientists and engineers, and host to top-ranked Fortune 500 companies such as Waste Management, Johnson Controls, Wesco, Honeywell, and Enbridge, the nation’s capital is innovating, developing and exporting industry leading technologies.

As a G7 capital, the city boasts a large concentration of federal research agencies and laboratories. A sample of some research and development (R&D) facilities with a focus on clean technology include:

The collaboration of researchers, private sector and academia in Ottawa serve as a catalyst for innovative breakout technologies that provide globally competitive and environmentally responsible solutions. Ottawa-based cleantech companies can also leverage their close proximity to the software and communication technology clusters in order to access leading-edge ICT expertise and enhance their worldwide competitiveness.

To learn more, visit: Clean Technologies

For further information, please contact Invest Ottawa:

7 Bayview Road,
Ottawa, ON K1Y 2C5

Aerospace, Defence and Security

As a G7 capital city and headquarters for most federal government departments, Ottawa is the national hub for Canada’s Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS) sector. Combined with proximity to a large network of research and development infrastructure, industry leading multi-nationals, exceptional post-secondary institutions, and a high concentration of tech talent, the nation’s capital provides a globally competitive environment where world-class ADS innovation thrives.

Ottawa represents significant government procurement opportunities, which contain headquarters to:

  • Department of National Defence (DND)
  • Public Safety Canada
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
  • Communications Security Establishment (CSE)
  • Canadian Military Intelligence Command
  • Privy Council Office (PCO)
  • Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC)
  • Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC)
  • Finance Canada
  • Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
  • Department of Justice Canada
  • Transport Canada

Coupled with Fortune 500 companies such as General Dynamics, Thales, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, Ottawa is a cluster of globally competitive ADS small and medium-sized enterprises that offer large reservoirs of talent.

Along with proximity to government procurement opportunities, ADS companies also have privileged access to some of Canada’s best research and development (R&D) capabilities. Examples include:

The National Research Council (NRC’s) Aerospace division, which is researching the design, manufacture, qualification, performance, use, and maintenance of air and space vehicles.

The David Florida Laboratory, the Canadian Space Agency’s spacecraft assembly, integration and testing centre

Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), national leader in defence and security science and technology

Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC), Canada’s primary laboratory for research and development in wireless technologies

Not only anchored by industry leading companies and research facilities, Ottawa’s post-secondary institutions also offer strategic advantage with industry leading programs such as The University of Ottawa’s Aeronautical and Space Engineering and IT Security program, Carleton University’s Infrastructure Protection and International Security and Mechanical Aerospace Engineering program and Algonquin College’s Computer Systems Technology-Security program.

To learn more, visit: Aerospace, Defence and Security

For further information, please contact Invest Ottawa:

7 Bayview Road,
Ottawa, ON K1Y 2C5


Ottawa benefits from a thriving education sector. The City offers numerous options for students to pursue academic studies or professional development in both English and French. In a worldwide survey conducted in 2017, Ottawa came on top as the #1 Student City – According to Students (QS Top Universities)!

Student population

There are four publicly-funded school boards serving Ottawa – English public, English Catholic, French public and French Catholic. Their enrollment rates combined for 2015-2016 were 96,290 elementary and 45,248 secondary level students (Ottawa Insights, Ottawa Community Foundation)[i].

Ottawa’s four post-secondary institutions (PSIs) educate as many as 130,000 students with 20 per cent of that student population specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The area is also home to many Private Career Colleges, which offer unique and specialized skills training for our dynamic labour market (Invest Ottawa).


The education sector is a key contributor to the local economy. In February 2018, the Ottawa-Gatineau region’s jobless rate tumbles to a nine-year low. A key factor was a gain of 17 per cent to the education sector, which employs 66,000 people (Ottawa Citizen).

Economic and Business Benefits

The city and businesses benefits from the booming sector. Some of the benefits include:

  • Access to a steady talent pipeline
  • Access to a number of academic and industrial research networks
  • A significant consumer market for a diverse array of good and services (e.g. housing, entertainment, transportation)

The City of Ottawa actively collaborates with the PSIs and other stakeholders in the sector to devise strategies for talent attraction and retention. Past collaborations include the 2016 Education and the Economy Summit, the Ottawa Welcome Event for International Students, and the G33 Talent Task Force.

[i]It is important to note that the service area of the two French boards extends well beyond Ottawa.



Tourism is one of Ottawa’s key economic drivers. Approximately 85,000 people are employed in this sector. In 2017, Ottawa welcomed 11 million visitors and visitor spending topped $2.3 billion. As the nation’s capital and home to important tourism assets and infrastructure such as Parliament Hill, Rideau Canal (UNESCO World Heritage Site), National Gallery of Canada, the Shaw Centre and award winning Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, Ottawa is well positioned to continue developing this important sector.

Since 1971, Ottawa Tourism  has had the primary mandate to bring visitors, tours, major events, media and conventions to Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region. Through industry leadership and destination marketing, Ottawa Tourism works together with over 400 member businesses to profile the region as a diverse place to visit. Ottawa Tourism promotes the city nationally and internationally to increase visitation and deliver economic impact for the industry.

Economic and Business Benefits

The Tourism sector not only benefits the city in terms of employment opportunities and visitor spending, but also in other ways including:

Tourism assets and experiences such as festivals significantly enhance quality of life, a key economic indicator and motivator for business and talent attraction and retention;

Destination development initiatives such as place branding, wayfinding and new product development enhance the overall visitor experience; and

A strong destination and growing visitation supports small and medium enterprises such as restaurants, retailers, convention services providers, etc.

Public Administration


Public Administration is an influential sector in the region. Ottawa being the capital of Canada, all three level of governments have a strong presence in the city. According to the 2016 Census, 20.1 per cent of the employed labour force in Ottawa-Gatineau work in the Public Administration sector (Focus on Geography Series, 2016 Census).

The federal government is a major employer in the region. In 2018, there were 273,571 active employees working for the federal government, 41.3 per cent are in the National Capital Region (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat: Population of the federal public service, and Population of the federal public service for the National Capital Region).

Another key employer in the city is the Municipal government, which employs approximately 17,000 employees in full-time and part-time positions in many different fields.

While the provincial government presence is less prominent in the region, there is still a percentage of their staff working in Ottawa.

Economic and Business Benefits

The Public Administration sector not only benefits the city in terms of employment opportunities but also has tremendous benefits businesses in many ways. Some of the benefits include:

  • Easy and quick access to policy makers;
  • Enhance research and development capabilities and opportunities with 65 federal research labs located in the region;
  • Access to millions of dollars in government contracts.


Another sector that contributes to the City’s employment diversity, is manufacturing.

According to Conference Board of Canada (Metropolitan Outlook 1: Ottawa-Gatineau, Spring 2018) manufacturing employment in Ottawa-Gatineau accounted for 25,300 jobs in 2018, up 2,100 (8.3 per cent) from 23,200 in 2015.

In context, total employment was reported as up 29,100 (4.1 per cent) for all sectors in Ottawa-Gatineau between 2015 and 2018 with total employment reported as 739,700 in all sectors.

Manufacturing represented 3.42 per cent of total employment in 2018, behind:

  1. Public Administration (21.6 per cent)
  2. Health Care and Social Assistance (12.5 per cent)
  3. Wholesale and Retail Trade (12.2 per cent)
  4. Professional, Scientific & Technical Services (9.9 per cent)
  5. Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Business, Building, and Other Support Services (8.7 per cent)
  6. Educational Services (8.0 per cent)
  7. Construction (5.8 per cent)
  8. Accommodation and Food Services (5.5 per cent)
  9. Other Services (4.0 per cent)

It ranks ahead of Transportation and Warehousing (3.1 per cent), Arts, Entertainment and Recreation (2.6 per cent) and Information and Cultural Industries (2.1 per cent).

From a City survey of employers in 2016, of the more than 1,000 manufacturing establishments in Ottawa alone, 70 per cent had less than 10 employees, 28 per cent had 10 to 249 employees, and fewer than 2 per cent had 250 or more employees.


One of the distinct features of Ottawa is its large rural component. Eighty per cent of the city is made up of rural area, the largest of any city in Canada. Just under ten per cent (9.8 percent) of Ottawa’s population lives in the rural area; approximately 41 per cent reside in the City’s 26 villages, while the remainder live on farms or in other smaller communities. From 2001 to 2016, Ottawa’s rural population grew faster than the city’s overall average growth (21.2 per cent vs.19.5 per cent).

According to the City’s 2012 Employment Survey, Ottawa’s rural area accounted for 4.5 per cent of jobs in the city, and in the five years prior to 2012, jobs in the rural area increased by approximately 16 per cent.

The City of Ottawa benefits from a vital rural sector. In Ottawa, the rural economy contributes over $1 billion to the GDP (City Of Ottawa: Long-Range Financial Plan III 2006). Rural economic activity includes agriculture, retail sales, construction, forestry and mining (aggregates), tourism, manufacturing, personal and business services, and transportation, to name a few.

The Ottawa agricultural sector comprises of 1,045 farms representing 252,423 acres of land farmed by more than 1,200 agricultural operations, employing approximately 10,000 people. There are close to 3,000 direct agriculture jobs in the Ottawa area including paid agricultural employees (1,439) and farm operators (1,485) (Statistics Canada 2017).

Rural tourism is also an important contributor to the local economy. Ottawa offers a wide range of tourism and recreational activities that are unique to rural areas. Heritage buildings and museums, provincial parks, campgrounds, mazes in cornfields, horseback-riding ranches, and pumpkin patch rides are some examples. Rural villages hold annual fairs and festivals, attracting people from the Ottawa-Gatineau area, neighbouring counties, as well as people from across Canada and internationally. Almost one quarter of Ottawa’s arts, culture, and recreation jobs, are located in the rural areas of the City.

The City places a strong emphasis on economic activities in Ottawa’s rural areas; as such, Rural Economic Development is one of the four pillars of the City’s Economic Development Strategy.