Techopia Year in Review: Invest Ottawa’s new CEO sets the plan forward

Michael Tremblay is the president and CEO of Invest Ottawa.

The Invest Ottawa ending the year is not the same Invest Ottawa that began 2017. Fresh leadership, a fully-operational innovation centre and a new plan forward have transformed the regional economic development agency going in to 2018.

Invest Ottawa began the year by filling the president and CEO role that had long been left vacant by the outgoing Bruce Lazenby. In January it was announced that Michael Tremblay, the former Microsoft Canada executive, would take the reins.

The choice in leadership reflected a new era for the organization that has both focused on empowering startups and been one itself. Tremblay told OBJ at the time that his experience, honed with multinationals and largely focused on working with public sector clients, would suit Invest Ottawa, which he called a “mature organization.”

Over the course of 2017, the organization would continue to mature as Tremblay’s Invest Ottawa slowly took shape.


While the innovation centre at Bayview Yards was soft launched towards the end of 2016, the large heritage structure at 7 Bayview Rd. put the final shine on its facilities this past year.

Aside from a new sign and some cool graffiti, one of the more anticipated launches was MadeMill, a $5-million makerspace with high tech gear such as 3D printers and hydraulic cutters for mockups and prototyping.

Carleton University industrial design student Will Fletcher, an employee at MadeMill, shows off one of the facility's new 3D printers. (File photo by Mark Holleron).

Bayview Yards’ incubator space, where some four dozen startups make their home, received its own branding as the “Incite Incubator.” Just don’t try to bring in any Nerf guns. They hate that.

Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards also received an injection of $1.3 million in funding from sponsors including Royal Bank of Canada, Algonquin College and BDO.

In March the organization launched its Work in Ottawa campaign to attract international talent, especially from the United States, to head north. Many of the campaign’s pitches revolved around Ottawa’s cultural offerings.

The city’s livability would play a large role in the region’s bid to host Amazon’s second headquarters. Invest Ottawa was one of the key drivers behind the local campaign that sent cities all over North America into a frenzy, with local efforts resulting in a single bid book highlighting the best tech and lifestyle features of Ottawa-Gatineau.

Shifts in the company also meant changes to the staff. Managing director of innovation Jon Milne left early on in the year to take on a new role with Klipfolio, and Invest Ottawa says four staff were let go late this year to position the firm for a “strong year in 2018.”

The future of Invest Ottawa

Tremblay unveiled a rough sketch of his strategic plan for the future of Invest Ottawa in a speech to the West Ottawa Board of Trade in late November.

The plan seeks to capitalize on what Tremblay calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” one that focuses broadly on the intersection of physical, digital and biological technologies. While he didn’t suggest the city should focus on any particular sector – he says Ottawa’s wide tech base is one of its strengths – Tremblay did urge the wider community to better utilize our limited resources and leave “bad ideas” behind.

Other elements outlined in Tremblay’s strategic plan included connecting startups focused on R&D with post-secondary institutions and large firms that can support their work, doing more to encourage local firms to sell to various levels of government and physically expanding Bayview Yards.

Whatever waters Invest Ottawa finds itself in next year, the organization appears confident with its captain, its crew, its ship and its direction going into 2018.