The future prosperity of Southern Ontario – and of Canada as a whole – will rely heavily on innovation as part of “the new world of manufacturing,” according to a federal cabinet minister.
Speaking at the Manufacturing Canada conference in Mississauga, Ont., Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), praised the manufacturing sector as a creator of wealth and opportunities, but also called for realism about what the future has in store.
“I don’t think I have to tell you … that the manufacturing sector is a vitally important part of our economy,” Goodyear, MP for Cambridge, Ont., told attendees. “But we do need to be a little bit realistic…[because] the manufacturing sector compared to others has been experiencing slow growth.”
That slow growth, combined with increasing global competition and new consumer demands, means the sector is facing a “new world”, Goodyear said, in which innovation will play a key role in future success.
“The new world of manufacturing is, in fact, high tech, high skilled, actively innovative and highly responsive,” he said. “It consists of robotics, 3-D printing, printable electronics, customization, and these are much more than buzz words of the past – they are the absolute new reality of today.”
Being ushered in alongside new technology is a new breed of workforce that includes engineers, programmers and designers, he said. “These are indicators of change (and) not everybody likes change, but these are the indicators of a trend within manufacturing towards more innovative and effective ways of doing things,” Goodyear continued.
And while some manufacturers have made the transition to the “new way” of the industry, Goodyear added, not enough are moving in the necessary direction. “Many more need to seize the opportunities for change,” he said. “Our regional prosperity, and by extension that of (Canada), will rely on businesses’ capacity to innovate more than ever.”
That innovation includes not only new products and services, Goodyear said, but a shift to transformative partnerships and collaborations with other firms and local post-secondary institutions that are training the crop of talent the industry will need to compete.