The 2023 Heavy Vehicle and Equipment Technology Conference, co-hosted by RRC Polytech and the Vehicle Technology Centre, brought together key players from industry and academia to demonstrate, display and discuss the latest advancements across the more than billion-dollar sector of Manitoba’s economy. While the concept of the event designed to drive innovation is relatively simple, the collective work done by the assembled group of business leaders, engineers, technicians, researchers, and trainers to propel us into the future is anything but.
From tractors and agricultural equipment to buses, motorhomes and firetrucks, Manitoba proudly produces many of the largest and most powerful vehicles on the continent. But as competition around the world increases, the nearly 200 invested attendees agreed that the key to growing our success is embracing new technology and energy transition – prompting the theme of the third biennial conference, Innovation Drives Us.
“Decades ago, science fiction writers boldly predicted that flying cars and massive spacecraft would become the norm and while that day may still come, almost a quarter of the way into the 21st century, the giant rubber wheels of our heaviest vehicles and equipment are still planted firmly on the ground,” said Ron Vanderwees, President and CEO of the Vehicle Technology Centre. “They are, however, evolving at an incredibly rapid rate thanks to the development of cleaner and more efficient propulsion systems, robotics, artificial intelligence and other related emerging technologies.”
How to make our heavy vehicles, machines and equipment more efficient and sustainable, without limiting performance or profitability while respecting current infrastructure is what much of the discussion revolved around during the two-day conference at the Victoria Inn.
The agenda was designed to bring perspective and spark conversation. Presenters from both industry and academia shared information and experiences and then engaged the audience on a wide variety of related topics from the methods and challenges of fleet electrification and the adoption of hydrogen fuel cells; to the convergence of digitalization, automation, and intelligent systems; to funding; and even the importance of nurturing mental health. Scheduled mingling sessions then allowed attendees to interact directly, encouraging company to company and company to academia discussions to help create partnership opportunities.
“Collaboration not competition is what will drive Manitoba’s heavy vehicle and equipment sector into a more efficient and sustainable future,” said Vanderwees. “The opportunity for everyone to connect and forge new relationships by asking a lot of questions is just as important as the forward-thinking sessions we hosted on such topics as the path to zero emissions; smart, connected and autonomous vehicle technology; and advanced manufacturing technology.”
A dozen exhibitors including teams from RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology and Energy Centre (VTEC), MotiveLab™ and Technology Access Centre for Aerospace and Manufacturing (TACAM) also offered interactive demonstrations featuring augmented reality, robotics, connected tools, automated mobile robots, sensors, and other technologies as examples of the innovative solutions available to businesses.
“RRC Polytech is uniquely positioned to catalyze innovation, by developing new products, techniques, and systems through applied research, while preparing students and industry professionals to master these emerging technologies and drive progress forward,” said Jojo Delos Reyes, Research Program Manager and the event’s co-emcee. “The creation of the Price Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and Mechatronics will allow the College to continue its work in this sector and expand our abilities to help drive Manitoba into the future.”
After participating virtually in 2021 and learning about VTEC’s successful EV Tundra Buggy project with Frontiers North, Brent Malley made it a priority to travel from Alberta to take part in person, this time. His company, Pursuit Collection operates tours of exotic locations including the Columbia Icefields, so he was thrilled with the opportunity to discuss battery electrification with experts from RRC Polytech and New Flyer Industries, face to face.
“It’s been a truly inspiring event. My team has been blown away by the willingness of everyone to share so many fresh ideas,” said Malley. “We’ve made some amazing connections that I’m confident will lead to partnerships in the future.”
Thanks to strong sponsorship and the support of government partners through Prairies Economic Development Canada and Manitoba Sector Council, RRC Polytech and the Vehicle Technology Centre are already making plans to host the next Heavy Vehicle and Equipment Technology Conference in 2025.