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Advanced Technology Industry

Systems to operate satellites, detect chemical weapons and provide flight arrival/departure in airports are among the world-leading products made by Saskatchewan’s advanced technology companies for almost forty years. There are only about 200 companies that work in the industry, many of which grew up around the Innovation Place cluster at the University of Saskatchewan campus.

SED Systems, considered to the province’s oldest advanced technology company, began as part of the university’s Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies. Founded in 1965, the university’s Space Engineering Division or SED had a mandate to design and build rocket instrumentation for upper atmospheric studies. For almost four decades, SED Systems has been providing system solutions to satellite manufacturers, operators, and service providers worldwide. SED employs 225 people in Saskatoon and has annual sales of $50 million. Customers include household names in the telecommunications, satellite and defense industries from Boeing to XM Radio Satellite.

While SED is the reference point for the start of the advanced technology industry in Saskatchewan, the $173.5-million Canadian Light Source (CLS) became the province’s most visible entry into the industry when it opened in late 2004. Construction funding came from federal, provincial, municipal, industrial and academic sources. Saskatoon was selected as the location for construction of Canada’s biggest scientific research facility in more than thirty years because of the experience from working with a linear accelerator in the 1960s.

A synchrotron produces extremely bright light—millions of times brighter than the sun—by using powerful magnets and radio frequency waves to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. This infra-red, ultraviolet and X-ray light is shone down beam lines to experimental stations where scientists can select different parts of the spectrum to “see” the microscopic nature of matter, literally right down to the level of the atom. Information obtained with the CLS or super microscope is expected to be used to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces for developing more effective motor oils, build more powerful computer chips, and help with clean-up of mining wastes.

Another Saskatoon-based company, Scientific Instrumentation, has developed a niche market by putting advanced technologies to work. Scientific Instrumentation designs and manufactures specialized electronic instruments and equipment for scientific research, industrial, and military applications. The company’s Chemical Agent Detection System (CADS II) provides advanced warning against chemical agent attack. The rugged and versatile system establishes a protective warning perimeter around military installations and can also be used to monitor chemical agents at storage and disposal sites. The United Nations used the Saskatchewan-developed system to monitor disposal of chemical weapons in Iraq.

VCom has grown since inception in 1988 as Wavecom Electronics Inc. to employ 440 people and generate $46 million in revenue. VCom is recognized as a world-leading designer and manufacturer of cable television and wireless Telecommunications products.

Terminal Systems International (TSI), has been making and marketing information display systems since 1996. TSI has installed and maintained flight arrival and departure system monitors in Canadian airports from Victoria to Halifax as well as the United States (Seattle and Abilene) and southeast Asia (Singapore).

Meanwhile, a new generation of Saskatchewan companies is entering the advanced technology industry by providing intelligent systems for use in a wide range of products. Intelligent systems may be found in robotics, machine sensing, human-machine interfaces, neural networks and controls, and intelligent computation. These systems have broad applications in a number of sectors including Mining, forestry, agri-food, energy, environment, manufacturing, space and aerospace, medical and information technologies, communication, and virtual reality. Intelligent systems emulate human intelligence and employ some part of the intelligent capacity of a human in performing a task.

Saskatchewan companies continue to be on the leading edge as technology is used to advance our society.

Joe Ralko

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This web site was produced with financial assistance
provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.