Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
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Network legacy: AUTO21

Funded 2001-2016


NCE contributions
$81.1 million

Number of partners

Partner contributions
$62.7 million

University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario

Turning automobile innovation into competitive advantage

The automotive sector is Canada’s largest industry, directly or indirectly employing one in seven Canadians. It has also been Canada’s single largest source of export earnings. While many companies do conduct R&D, their resources may be limited due to available funds or staffing. Partnering with an NCE like AUTO21 enabled companies to work with Canada’s top research minds to develop leading-edge solutions in an economical and efficient manner. It also provided training opportunities for the brightest student researchers who will be the leaders of tomorrow’s industry.

As Canada’s largest research network focused on advanced automotive R&D, AUTO21 provided a business incentive for automotive companies to be located in Canada. AUTO21’s national community of nearly 200 automotive research experts and more than 400 student researchers at 48 universities, colleges and hospitals worked in partnership with 192 private and public sector companies and organizations in the areas of: health, safety and injury prevention; societal issues; materials and manufacturing; powertrains, fuels and emissions; design processes; and intelligent systems and sensors. This powerful collaboration saved lives, reduced greenhouse gases, increased fuel efficiency and advanced the competitiveness of the Canadian automotive sector.

Among the results

  • AUTO21 joined more than 500 experts from engineering, business, health and the social sciences with nearly 700 industry and public sector partners. This collaborative research resulted in 8,639 publications and more than 320 patents, licenses and commercialization agreements, including a low-cost radar system for reducing vehicle collisions that was 27 times smaller and 10 times faster than currently available systems.
  • AUTO21 trained more than 2,400 student researchers, including University of Waterloo graduate Ibraheem Khan. Dr. Khan’s discovery led to the creation of Smarter Alloys, which produces lightweight and longer lasting “smart” metal that helps automakers and other manufacturers reduce the number of components in their products, decreasing weight, size, carbon footprint and cost.
  • Thanks to AUTO21’s project on Antisocial Behaviour and the Automobile, auto thefts dropped more than 80% and vehicle insurance premiums were cut by more than $30 million in Winnipeg.
  • Federal legislators used AUTO21 research to inform Bill C-2, a 2008 act that made it easier for police to detect drug-using drivers and remove them from the road. AUTO21 also collaborated with the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators to draft recommendations for new regulations for drivers in the .05-.08 blood alcohol limit. Ontario and PEI introduced new laws in response.
  • AUTO21’s research on children’s automotive safety grew into the Clek booster seat system, the first booster seat to use lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) connectors to attach to a vehicle’s LATCH anchorage system. AUTO21 collaborated with private sector partners to make Clek seats available to 16 First Nations communities across Canada as part of an initiative to decrease vehicular injury rates.