ARCHIVED - A technology boost for Canada's automotive industry

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September 02, 2008— Ottawa, Ontario

Imagine tomorrow's car. Sleek, light and powerful, it runs on electricity or a combination of alternative and traditional fuels. Compact and hi-tech, it leaves virtually no environmental footprint. Durable in harsh climates, it costs less than today's most cost-efficient vehicles. Best of all, it's made in Canada.

Is this just a tailpipe dream? To make it happen, Canada's automotive industry needs solutions to the challenges of today's global marketplace. To compete internationally, the industry must find innovative ways to go green, while increasing productivity and reducing costs. It's a challenge that calls for a vision and concerted action from government and industry leaders.

Hearing the call, NRC has consulted automotive equipment manufacturers and suppliers, industry associations, university research organizations, other government departments and S&T funding agencies to map out a comprehensive automotive R&D strategy for NRC.


"We conducted an environmental scan to determine the trends affecting the industry as well as its most critical S&T development needs," says Michel Dumoulin, who heads up automotive sector planning for NRC. "We then identified the NRC competencies and facilities that could play a crucial role in boosting R&D in the industry. NRC is ideally positioned to help the industry benefit from strategic technological growth and capture a greater share of the international market."

The NRC automotive strategy will focus primarily on increasing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. Several NRC institutes will be working together on lightweight materials and structures, aerodynamic enhancements, alternative propulsion vehicles including plug-in hybrids, and the integration of information technology in vehicles.

The automotive industry is still Canada's largest manufacturing sector, accounting for 12% of manufacturing GDP and 24% of manufacturing trade. But global competition, cheap foreign labour, higher demand for customized cars, and stricter emission standards are making it hard for Canadato increase its share of the world market.

NRC already has considerable successes in the synthesis, formulation, characterization and testing of new materials. By concentrating on producing lighter metals, polymers and bio-composites for auto parts, NRC will help the industry make lighter vehicles that require less fuel. The NRC Industrial Materials Institute and the NRC Canadian Neutron Beam Centre are already working with partners on new metal alloys, biomaterials and innovative processes for producing stronger, lighter car parts.

NRC also has considerable expertise in developing advanced manufacturing processes. By applying new methods and technologies to enhance forming, machining, joining, surface technologies and assembly, NRC will be able to transfer new processes to its industry partners.


The automotive sector will also benefit from NRC expertise and facilities in biofuels, fuel cell and hydrogen systems, batteries and new energy storage and conversion technologies. The NRC Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation in Vancouver will work with the NRC Institute for Chemical Processing and Environmental Technologies and industry partners to help bring alternative propulsion vehicles and plug-in hybrids to the market. In addition, the NRC Industrial Materials Institute facilities in London, Ontario, will focus on developing advanced materials and flexible manufacturing processes for the automotive industry.

NRC also has considerable strengths in enabling technologies and systems that could have a significant impact on the automotive sector. The industry will benefit from NRC expertise in biotechnology, fuel chemistry, nanocomposites, aerodynamics, information technology, surface coatings, sensors and other areas of R&D.

Industry Canada has announced a five-year $145-million Automotive R&D Partnership Initiative to help the automotive sector address its innovation, productivity and competitiveness challenges. NRC is one of the main players in this initiative, investing an additional $30 million over the next five years in automotive R&D projects.

As part of this concerted national effort, NRC is also collaborating with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Auto 211, the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association, Precarn2, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade (Ontario) and the Ministère du développement économique, de l'innovation et de l'exportation (Quebec), the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the CANMET3, labs of Natural Resources Canada.

To learn more about the NRC Automotive Sector Strategy, contact Michel Dumoulin at (450) 641-5181 or

1 AUTO21, a Network of Centres of Excellence, is helping to build a stronger automotive sector in Canada through excellence in public/private sector collaborative research and the development of human and social capital.

2 Precarn is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that supports the pre-commercial development of leading-edge technologies.

3 CANMET Energy Technology Centre is Canada's leading federal S&T organization with a mandate to develop and demonstrate energy-efficient, alternative and renewable energy technologies and processes.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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