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Government investment of $22M to support new Innovation Hub at YKF, among other aerospace projects in Ontario

By Dayna Fedy-MacDonald | March 1, 2023

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 50 seconds.

During an event at the Region of Waterloo International Airport (YKF) on Feb. 28, the Federal Economic Development Agency (FedDev) for Southern Ontario announced an investment of $22 million, through the Aerospace Regional and Recovery Initiative, to support aerospace projects in the province by allowing six businesses and organizations to increase manufacturing capabilities and green operations, as well as train and upskill employees. The investment is estimated to support over 400 jobs in Southern Ontario.

Of the $22 million, $9.2 million has been earmarked for the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA) at the University of Waterloo. WISA, which is Canada’s first sustainable aeronautics institute, intends to create an “Innovation Hub” at YKF airport that would focus on sustainable aeronautical research and greening the aeronautics sector, as well as provide “hands-on aviation training,” a FedDev press release states.

“This project will support up to 39 research projects to solve sector-specific challenges, help up to 12 SMEs commercialize projects focused on aeronautical sustainability, and develop two aeronautical sustainable e-learning courses,” the release continues.

Overall, the WISA Innovation Hub project would support over 65 jobs and up to 30 SMEs in the Waterloo Region.  

WISA was launched just a year-and-a-half ago, after University of Waterloo students expressed that “while they loved aviation, they were hesitant about joining an industry and that is contributing to climate change,” said Dr. Suzanne Kearns, founding director of WISA.

“At WISA, our mission is to mobilize research, new technologies, and education at the University of Waterloo — aligned with the three pillars of sustainability (social, environmental, and economic) — [and] to be in direct service to the air transport sector,” she added.  

Pipistrel’s Velis Electro all-electric aircraft is intended primarily for a training aircraft role. Pipistrel Photo

Today, WISA has more than 130 faculty members, and the organization – in partnership with the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC) – is the proud owner of Canada’s first electric type-certified training aircraft, the two-seat Pipistrel Velis Electro. WISA and WWFC intend to use the all-electric aircraft “to increase their research and collaborative capacity to evaluate battery-powered electric flight in Canada,” said Pipistrel.

The $22 million total investment from FedDev also includes over $1.2 million for aerospace small part manufacturer, Shimco, based in Cambridge, Ontario. The investment will allow the company to expand its manufacturing facility with a 20,000-square-foot addition and purchase new advanced equipment. Not only will the investment lead to growth at Shimco, it will allow the company to reduce its environmental footprint with the installation of new, more efficient machinery, as well as the ability to increase its production capacity. The expansion of Shimco’s facility will support 60 jobs in the community, said Filomena Tassie, the minister responsible for FedDev Ontario.

Shimco is a custom shim and small part manufacturer serving global aerospace supply chains. Shimco Photo

Peter Voss, CEO of Shimco, emphasized that the support the company has received does work.

“We received money a few years ago from FedDev that allowed us to install a surface treatment line for metal for aerospace. . . . That special process allowed us to get noticed and get certified. And that then pushed us for big contracts. So we are signing big contracts — we’ll make some announcements soon — but we don’t have the space. That’s what this [new] funding support will help. [We’ll be able to] more than double the capacity of the plant, and create a lot of jobs and a lot of opportunities for local businesses as well.”

Along with WISA and Shimco, the $22 million FedDev Ontario investment will also support Cleeve Technology Inc., Service Mold & Aerospace Inc., the World Trade Centre Toronto, and First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI).

FNTI school
FNTI’s Second World War-era hangar, fleet of 13 aircraft, and approved maintenance organization were destroyed by fire in February 2022. FNTI Photo

The latter organization, FNTI — which offers the only post-secondary Indigenous aviation program of its kind in Canada — is in the process of rebuilding after the school’s Second World War-era hangar and fleet of 13 aircraft were completely destroyed by fire in February 2022.

While FNTI has received support from industry partners over the last year, the funding from FedDev is sure to go a long way.

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