WTC-T travels to Barcelona and NYC

Feb 16, 2018

World Trade Centre Toronto partners with the City of Toronto on November trade missions, promoting the region’s strengths in the smart city tech and fintech sectors

The need for smarter cities is growing. Complexities involving rapid population growth, changing demographics, aging city infrastructure and constrained public budgets are pressuring cities globally to adopt technologies to remain prosperous, resilient, and inclusive. Initiatives such as the national Smart Cities Challenge will help local businesses develop new solutions and services, which can then be exported globally. The global marketplace for smart city solutions is estimated to reach $1.8 trillion by 2020.

A similar digital revolution is underway in the financial services industry. Driven by deals in continental Europe and Asia, global fintech investment exceeded $28 billion in 2015. As the hub of Canada’s financial services industry and the second largest financial centre in North America, the Toronto region is well positioned to capitalize on global fintech activity. The region is one of the fastest growing fintech hubs in the world, with an investment rate exceeding that of Silicon Valley, NYC and London in the last 6 years.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade’s World Trade Centre Toronto (WTC-T) is working closely with the City of Toronto to foster international growth opportunities for Toronto region businesses in the key fintech and smart city tech sectors, notably through its Market Activation Program (MAP). Outbound trade missions are one way that WTC-T promotes the region as a global centre for talent, innovation and development.

Barcelona – Smart City Expo World Congress

In November, WTC-T organized a delegation from the City of Toronto, including Councillors Michael Thompson and Michelle Holland, Chief Information Officer Rob Meikle, and City Librarian Vickery Bowles of the Toronto Public Library, to attend Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) 2017 in Barcelona. The goals were to promote Toronto’s expertise in smart city tech, and exchange best practices with leading global counterparts in the sector.


SCEWC is the world’s leading event on smart cities—a must-attend meeting place for companies, cities and institutions that are fully engaged on the path towards building a smarter city. The 2017 edition of this event put 675 exhibitors in front of nearly 19,000 attendees from more than 700 cities across 120 countries. Events such as the SCEWC provide opportunities to develop targeted connections leading to a smarter and deeper dialogue with like-minded cities such as New York, London, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Singapore. Strategic dialogue ultimately leads to investment and trade opportunities.

“It’s interesting to connect with representatives from other cities and find out what they’re doing,” said Vickery Bowles, City Librarian of the Toronto Public Library. “To speak with people from places like Tel Aviv and Copenhagen is a tremendous opportunity to learn what people around the world are doing with their own smart city initiatives, and what projects they’re focused on.”

Along with the opportunity to visit exhibitors and network with global peer cities, delegates also made their own presentations at SWEWC: Councillor Holland spoke on The Art of Placemaking: Inclusive Public Spaces & Green Areas, and Rob Meikle followed his Making Safer, Smarter & Healthier Cities presentation by collaborating with Vickery Bowles on Smart Cities: the Toronto Experience. Bowles also presented on Digital Fabrication: Transforming Citizens from Consumers to Producers.


New York City – Sidewalk Labs & Grand Central Tech

Later in November, Toronto Region Board of Trade President & CEO Jan De Silva accompanied Mayor John Tory and a delegation from the City of Toronto, MaRS Discovery District, the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA), JPMorgan Chase Canada and Blackrock Canada to New York City. The Mayor’s primary goal was to promote the Toronto region as a hub for growth, talent attraction and business development in the fintech sector.

Delegates met with Sidewalk Labs’ CEO Dan Doctoroff and his team to learn about its industry-leading developments in smart city tech, and its partnership with Waterfront Toronto to develop the Quayside district as a global hub of urban innovation. The solutions advanced in the Quayside project will be brought to scale in the multi-billion-dollar development of the Port Lands, an underdeveloped area of more than 325 hectares along Toronto’s eastern waterfront.

A Mayor’s Roundtable was also convened to promote the partnership between MaRS Discovery District and flagship tech accelerator Grand Central Tech (GCT). MaRS@GCT will serve as an extension of MaRS in the heart of New York City, offering support, services and physical workspace to Canadian technology startups seeing to expand globally.

“Grand Central Tech and MaRS share a strategic vision. This partnership is helping to draw attention to the startup activity happening in Toronto and New York. Together, we’re capitalizing on this momentum to build a multi-city investment pipeline,” said Jeff Hindle, Managing Director, Finance & Commerce at MaRS. GCT’s focus on innovation in health, fintech and smart cities solutions also aligns with MaRS’ primary sectors and complements the support that MaRS offers to Canadian entrepreneurs in Toronto.

“On our trip to NYC, I was inspired by the collaborative nature of the entrepreneurs between these ecosystems. We’re seeing a trend: collaboration across startup ecosystems increases the chances of building global successes,” said Hindle, reflecting on the mission. “Companies can’t just be islands alone. They have to grow globally to succeed and apply their innovations to problems all over the world.”

For more information on World Trade Centre Toronto outbound and inbound trade missions, email us at