Thales Canada opens new experience centre, looking for collaborators

Thales Canada opened its new experience centre Thursday, a clear sign the international company is ready to expand its Ottawa business beyond the defence industry.

The company’s vice-president of strategy and communications, Siegfried Usal, said Ottawa is an innovative city, citing a recent award it won for being business-friendly.

“We sense that stimulation, that energy and we want to support that, capture that, and support that,” he said in an interview ahead of the centre’s launch.

Known for its work in the aerospace, transport, defence and security industries, Thales believes its technologies can be adapted to other sectors as well, Mr. Usal said.

“We do the intelligence inside many platforms,” he said.

The centre will use gaming and simulations technology to develop solutions to make government more efficient and make residents and first responders safer. Through the centre, Thales hopes to drive local innovation, grow its Ottawa talent base by adding as many as 50 jobs over the next five years and support the city’s transportation and security goals.

The company is aiming to bring its expertise to areas such as urban security, smart mobility and urban computing, while partnering in R&D at local universities and colleges. With $28 million committed to R&D annually, Thales Canada is already among the top investors in the country.

It is already working with the City of Ottawa, providing signalling technology for the new light rail system.

“The launch of this experience centre demonstrates Thales’ commitment to the research and development of new technologies right here in Ottawa, and is a vibrant example of a thriving high-tech company in our community,” Mayor Jim Watson said in a statement.

Mr. Usal called Thales an “integrator,” meaning the centre is available for any startups, post-secondary researchers, first responders, municipal officials and other SMEs interested in collaborating on ideas to develop smart cities across Canada.

Some of the toys in the experience centre include its FuzionTable, a digital mapping system, and Crowdstack, a social media analytics platform.

Thales, a French company with 61,000 workers in 56 countries, has had a presence in Ottawa since 1984. It currently employs 200 people at its Centrepointe offices on Chrysalis Way.