Electric vehicle charging with Windsor skyline in the background

Automobility Capital of Canada

Windsor-Essex welcomes new $5 billion NextStar Energy Gigafactory as a key part of Ontario’s end-to-end EV supply chain  

On July 5, 2023, construction on NextStar Energy gigafactory continues and the plant begins hiring workers for what will become one of the biggest electric vehicle battery plants in the world. The Windsor plant will be fully operational in 2025.  

On March 23, 2022, the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Windsor announced a $5 billion dollar joint venture between Stellantis and LG Energy Solution to establish a battery manufacturing plant in Windsor, Ontario. The plant is expected to create over 2,500 direct high paying jobs in the region and over 10,000 indirect jobs.

On Nov. 24, 2021, Invest WindsorEssex, the lead economic development organization for the Windsor-Essex region, announced the launch of Canada’s first Automobility Hub. Together with local elected officials, global industry leaders, post-secondary education institutions and guests, IWE unveiled one of the region’s new centres for automotive innovation and collaboration at St. Clair College, Windsor Campus.                  

Windsor-Essex has a rich history as a North American industrial powerhouse in the development and production of the automobile. With global mobility trends changing at a rapid rate, the region is now looking toward future opportunities including the development and production of connected, autonomous and electric vehicles. Our prime location, quality of life, great economic prospects, and highly skilled workforce have helped transition Windsor-Essex to the Automobility Capital of Canada.

A leader in connected, autonomous and electric vehicles

As a proud partner of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN), Windsor-Essex is a Regional Technology Development Site focused on digital twinning, simulation, and automotive and cybersecurity. The program provides a strong foundation for the automobility activities currently underway in the region.  

Windsor-Essex is harnessing momentum to strengthen its developing automobility cluster. The Government of Canada continues to make investments to support this initiative in high-tech development, research, and innovation. Since 2019, FedDev Ontario has invested $12.5 million in the region to catalyze the growth of a next generation automobility cluster and Canada’s first world-class automobility accelerator.

FedDev Ontario’s investment will also leverage an additional $12.3 million in private sector and other matching funding and attract $40 million in new foreign direct investment to the region.

Canada’s largest publicly accessible virtual reality CAVE

We are home to Canada’s largest publicly accessible Virtual Reality CAVE. Thanks to support from OVIN, the Windsor-Essex Virtual Reality CAVE  is an immersive and virtual reality environment integrated with state-of-the-art hardware and software. The facility serves as a teaching, training, and research tool designed to support connected and autonomous vehicle development.

The VR CAVE will provide many valuable opportunities for business and research institutions to aid in product development, including simulation, skills training, communication and collaboration. Virtual prototyping through the VR CAVE will allow for products and processes to be tested before physical prototype testing and verification is performed.

Windsor-Essex automobility developments

Organizations across the Windsor-Essex region have partnered to support high-tech development, research and innovation in the automobility space. The goal is to accelerate our economic competitiveness, inspire our community to unlock their potential and lead the world in next-generation vehicle production.

Windsor-Essex’s automobility innovation cluster will be globally recognized as the leading jurisdiction for next-generation auto investments. This automobility cluster will substantively help shift the Windsor-Essex economy to a next generation technology cluster for the automotive sector by 2030.

Here are a few recent automobility developments in the Windsor-Essex region: 

  • Invest WindsorEssex will be offering a new training program to help local businesses transition to the automobility sector with funding help from the federal government. Up to 125 companies will be able to register for the program through Invest WindsorEssex. 
  • Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA)’s Project Arrow, Canada’s first zero-emission concept vehicle, visited the Invest WindsorEssex Automobility and Innovation Centre in June of 2023. This project is a good example of an all-Canadian effort to design, engineer and build the next-generation vehicle and is the largest commercial vehicle collaboration in Canadian automotive history.  
  • The Windsor-Essex Regional Technology Development Site (WE RTDS), led by Invest WindsorEssex, partners with Virtualware to accelerate VR CAVE capabilities for the automobility sector. The IWE VR CAVE will now include a unique integration with VIROO, the pioneering VR as a service (VRaaS) platform developed by Virtualware.  
  • New Ontario-Michigan agreement to bolster cross-border trade. The agreement is designed to support joint initiatives in electric vehicles and related supply chains to help business better compete internationally through trade missions and post-secondary exchange programs. 
  • Canada welcomed more than 32,000 tech workers over the past year with Windsor-Essex seeing the highest growth rate of 28%.  

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Windsor-Essex automobility ecosystem

The Windsor-Essex region boasts a cluster of innovative partners that are ready to collaborate and compete in the global marketplace as the Automobility Capital of Canada.

Invest WindsorEssex is the lead economic development agency for the region. The Invest WindsorEssex Automobility and Innovation department aims to support new and existing businesses in automobility and advanced manufacturing by offering a variety of resources and programs that help companies achieve their goals.

Automobility and Innovation focus: 

  • Create a world-class automobility innovation cluster that is supported by an enabling network of organizations that has access to networking, marketing and research tools. 
  • Foster a vibrant innovation and competitive entrepreneurial network that promotes a culture of entrepreneurship, by focusing on new entrepreneurs and existing businesses to support the advancement of automobility innovations.
  • Advance the development and deployment of technologies and infrastructure to support the next-generation of automobility innovation – connectedness, autonomous, shared and electrification.

SBEC, a division of Invest WindsorEssex, provides entrepreneurs and small business owners with the training and support necessary to start and grow successful businesses. SBEC is a one-stop source of resources, programs and information that provide guidance and professional advice from concept through start-up and early growth-stages of business.

Windsor-Essex has a long and proud history of being one of the chief economic engines of the province and the country in the auto manufacturing and advanced manufacturing sector. The City of Windsor is looking to continue this trend of growth and diversifying the economy by introducing the economic development strategy report titled Windsor Works – An Economic Development Strategy of the City’s Future Growth.

Windsor Works provides a road map through a customized L.I.F.T. Strategy outlining how to secure Windsor’s economic future. LIFT is based on four pillars: Location, Infrastructure, Future Economy and Talent. The first two represent fundamental strengths and opportunities for the City of Windsor and the last two are relative weaknesses and challenges to address and overcome. In conjunction with implementing this strategy, Windsor-Essex is launching a public relation campaign to position the region as a successful and attractive place to live, work, and grow – where the people, businesses, and culture of the city are encouraged and thrive.

To achieve the goals set out in the Windsor Works LIFT Strategy, Invest WindsorEssex will play a critical role in building, developing and marketing the region’s Automobility Innovation Cluster. Invest WindsorEssex will provide entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) access to services and resources that will accelerate regional, domestic and foreign investment. This will also provide long-term, high paying high value tech jobs for the region for years to come.

Furthermore, the completed Gordie Howe International Bridge will allow Windsor to take advantage of improved US-Canadian trade flows and cooperation. The new Administration will position the United States and Canada as partners in a drive to a low-emissions future. Amidst these changes, Windsor can be a site of the green manufacturing revolution. 

As a centre for automobility and advanced manufacturing excellence, Windsor-Essex is harnessing momentum to strengthen the region’s developing automobility cluster. The County of Essex understands the importance of adapting to the industry’s global transition to electric vehicles while maintaining a next generation economy.

The County of Essex together with the City of Windsor will continue to deliver a larger, more diverse economy that can leverage infrastructure investments, exploit new economic trends, and attract more of the skilled people that will drive future growth.

St. Clair College provides a critical bridge between industry and research needed to establish an automobility ecosystem in the region. There are eight faculties of specialization, featuring over 120 programs, including programs of strength in Electrical, Mechanical and Manufacturing/Automotive Engineering Technologies.

The St. Clair College Ford Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing (FCEM) delivers high quality training for the engineering and manufacturing technology industry. This state-of-the-art teaching facility gives students hands-on training using some of the world’s most sophisticated technology offered in a single college setting.

The FCEM is a 100,000 square foot standalone building that houses the same technology and equipment used in the industry, with five high-end CAD centres, five precision metal cutting labs, high-speed machining facilities, fluid power labs, industrial automation labs, plastics lab and a CMM metrology lab.

St. Clair College’s department of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship collaborates with local businesses and organizations to develop real-world solutions for their specific innovative needs. These solutions will ultimately facilitate the economic growth and innovation capacity of the business or organization, and of the region as a whole.

Collaborative Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship projects leverage College infrastructure and expertise, providing industry access to in-demand technologies and skills. Projects also provide relevant and cutting-edge training opportunities to student researchers and enable knowledge transfer to the classroom by faculty researchers. These opportunities collectively enable St. Clair College to graduate experienced students with the skills to support evolving industry needs.

Genesis Entrepreneurship Centre is the gateway to entrepreneurship and professional development at St. Clair College. It is a hub that connects students, alumni, faculty and the community. The Genesis Centre provides all guests with resources, programs, and support to provide them with tools to help each one  succeed in whatever path they choose – whether you work for yourself, or for someone else. If you have a business idea or solution, this is the place to start!

The University of Windsor is a leader in automobility innovation, technology development and training of the industry’s next generation of leaders. With eight faculties, including strength in the science and engineering faculties, the University of Windsor hosts several researchers and labs focused on delivering market-ready automobility solutions.

The Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy (CHARGE Lab) is an internationally recognized R&D facility that builds cross-disciplinary research collaborations among materials, mechanical, electrical and software engineers. CHARGE is led by Dr. Narayan Kar, a Tier 1 Canadian Research Chair in Electric Vehicles.

The SHIELD Automotive Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence at the University of Windsor is led by Dr. Mitra Mirhassani and Dr. Ikjot Saini. These multi-disciplinary researchers are consistently recognized within the automotive industry as leaders in protecting vehicle, network and system security for transportation systems and leading in innovations to protect users and manufacturers.

Dr. Ning Zhang is the Tier 1 Canadian Research Chair in Edge Computing and the Internet of Vehicles. His work looks to understand the dynamic environment of connected vehicles and the technical applications of this technology on the automobility industry.

The University of Windsor has the infrastructure, facilities, expertise, and highly engaged students that enable industry partners to be at the leading edge of automobility technology and solutions. Further strategic research and partnership opportunities at the University of Windsor include:

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics.  

  • Hardware, software, and network cybersecurity.  
  • Design, test, and materials labs.  
  • Electrical and computer systems engineering labs including hybrid drive laboratories and green energy, alternative fuels, wind tunnels, and vehicle thermal management labs. 

EPICentre is the hub for all entrepreneurial endeavours on the University of Windsor campus. From extra-curricular activities in the university’s entrepreneurship centre to hands-on workshops in the makerspace, students from any discipline and post-secondary institution have the opportunity to explore and practice entrepreneurial thinking and culture.

EPICentre offers: 

  • Co-working space and Makerspace
  • Networking events and workshops
  • Mentorship
  • Competitions
  • Funding opportunities
  • Accelerator programs

As an ecosystem partner, Windsor-Essex hosts a Regional Technology Development Site, focusing on digital twinning, simulation and automotive cybersecurity.

As Ontario’s flagship initiative on automotive and smart mobility technologies, OVIN is driving economic development and catalyzing a future that builds safer, faster and more efficient transportation.

The automotive industry is undergoing a significant shift, with technological advances and evolving mobility preferences redefining its future. Through OVIN, Ontario is at the forefront of this transformation. OVIN capitalizes on the economic potential of automotive technologies and smart mobility solutions such as connected and autonomous vehicles (C/AVs), and enables the province’s transportation and infrastructure networks to plan for and adapt to this evolution.

WEtech Alliance’s vision is to build a regional technology community that fosters entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration, creating a wealth of opportunity and prosperity for Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent. They  assist today’s entrepreneurs to launch new ventures, connect with academia, provide education and networking opportunities to accelerate business growth for small-to-medium enterprises, and serve as advocates for the region’s technology and innovation companies.

They focus on three main pillars:

  • Business advisory services
  • Building and engaging the tech community
  • Champion tech and innovation 

Centrally located in Windsor, the Accelerator is an entrepreneurial ecosystem with co-working spaces specifically designed to help accelerate the growth of start-ups and emerging businesses. The facility features on-site training and mentoring programs in a collaborative environment. 

The Accelerator offers a variety of programs: 

  • Business seminars
  • On-site mentoring
  • Business plan development
  • Free on-site legal assistance for members

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization representing over 700 members drawn from various industry sectors including: manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, finance and education. For over 143 years the Chamber has been the voice of business in Windsor-Essex promoting the needs of members to all levels of government.

Their Automobility Membership Program is one initiative being funded to promote an entrepreneurial network and help diversify Windsor-Essex from being a traditional auto manufacturing to next-generation mobility innovation.