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The Surge of Creative Technology in the Toronto Region

The Toronto Region is renowned globally for three main traits: tech, creativity, and quality of life. Yesterday, Interactive Ontario – with a number of partners, including the City of Toronto – released a report focusing on the first two attributes and how they intersect to create the Creative Technology sector.

It is no secret that tech is booming in the Toronto Region, but how does this impact creative industries like film, animation, and gaming? “Ontario’s Next Gen Industry” report answers this question and shows businesses how they can tap into the fast-growing Creative Tech industry in Ontario.

What is Creative Technology?

The Creative Technology industry covers a range of sub-sectors, including animation, film, virtual and augmented reality, VFX and other forms of virtual production. The Toronto Region belongs to the top three largest screen-based industries in North America, employing more than 30,000 people in the film sector alone.

A staple contributor is Pinewood Studios in Toronto, home to iconic creations such as The Little Mermaid (2023) Stephen King’s IT (2017-2019), Star Trek: Discovery (2017-2019) and many more.

Studios in the City of Markham have produced makings such as The Boys (2022) and Women Talking (2022). Continuing this streak, Markham is building the largest studio in Canada funded in part by Ryan Reynolds, equipped with 20 sound stages. The City of Mississauga is planning for a 450,000 square foot studio to create around 5,000 long-term jobs in the film industry.

Studios are making television history across the Toronto Region. Facilities like these utilize tech innovations from the over 289,000 skilled professionals employed in the Toronto Region tech industry and beyond, furthering the creative tech industry.

The Toronto Region’s Animation/VFX industry alone has had a 42 percent growth in the past five years. In the 2020-2021 academic year, postsecondary institutions enrolled over 1,200 students in a game and interactive media program, while 1,400 students enrolled in an animation-related program.

With tech advancements happening here every day, and some of the most generous tax incentives in the world, it is only natural that our bustling media industry takes hold of these opportunities to innovate and inspire audiences around the world.

Key Findings

We took away 4 main findings from the “Ontario’s Next Gen Industry” report.

  1. Creative technology talent demand is apparent for senior and mid-level positions, and immigration is the solution.

Due to the fast-growing nature of the tech industry, the creative tech field is still relatively new, therefore entry-level talent is more abundant than senior level. Despite having a robust and highly skilled creative tech talent pipeline, domestic experienced professionals in this field are seldom in the market for work. Increased clarity on immigration pathways will help creative tech studios hire senior-level talent from all over the world.

  1. A focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion is vital to talent attraction, with a focus on inclusivity.
  2. Local postsecondary institutions provide high-quality programs but still require further adaptation to meet evolving market needs.

Current demographic trends point to a future where 40 percent of Canadians will be from a racialized group. In present day, 50 percent of the population in the Toronto Region self-identify as a visible minority. Despite a diverse talent pool and comparatively diverse tech sector, there are still opportunities to promote inclusivity in creative tech fields by closing the gender gap, battling systemic biases, and improving participation in leadership positions from underrepresented groups. Tech is fast moving; Ontario postsecondaries are ahead of the curve in offering a diverse array of studies surrounding creative tech. However, educational programs across the board need to be more tailored to real-world trends in digital media. Micro-credentials is a great way to do this, which has already been implemented by Ontario Tech University.

  1. Ontario’s creative tech sector is a healthy blend of small studios and large multinationals.

The Creative Tech sector in Ontario has been very resilient, especially during the pandemic. The key to keeping the industry resilient and maintaining steady growth is attracting large multinational studios while supporting the growth of startups with government incentives. Attracting large-scale companies also creates a ‘spillover effect’ for senior-level talent attraction for small studios, which is currently in demand.

Read the full report here.

Recent Creative Tech Expansions

Certain Affinity

Certain Affinity, one of the largest independent video game developers in North America, doubled the size of its Toronto facility just a few weeks ago. Certain Affinity originally expanded to Canada in 2019 and has over 200 employees across all its offices, with no layoffs in 16 years. Certain Affinity is an example of a company able to adapt to current trends in the market and utilize all the resources the Toronto Region has to offer. “Ontario has put a lot of work into developing regional talent and has strong incentives in place to help tech innovators succeed, which has led to the creation of a thriving development community,” said Certain Affinity President and COO, Paul Sams. Read more.

Alteon

Alteon is a platform that provides content creators of all backgrounds with a fully streamlined workflow that lets them upload, share, collaborate, review and store projects within a single platform. Alteon Toronto opened its doors just days ago and is already in the process of hiring tech talent. “We examined multiple cities and agreed Toronto is the best option given the area’s strong support of business development, the high quality of workers and the city’s status as a cultural capital,” said Matt Cimaglia, co-founder and CEO of Alteon. Read more.

88 Pictures

88 Pictures, a leading animation and media company headquartered in Mumbai, India, announces its new North American office in Toronto in December 2022. The company has worked on noteworthy projects, such as DreamWorks’ Troll Hunters and Tales of Arcadia from acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. 88 Pictures began hiring senior-level positions right away, with plans to grow to 150 team members in Toronto over the next two years. “We’re thrilled to be joining such an innovative digital ecosystem. Our business module is built to cater across the entire value chain of CGI production, providing value to international animation partners and trailblazers,” said Milind D. Shinde, 88 Pictures Founder & Chief Executive Officer. Read more.

Sandbox VR

Preeminent immersive virtual reality (VR) experience arcade Sandbox VR opened its first Toronto location right next to Church-Wellesley Village in April of 2022. “We are delighted to have our flagship store launched in the heart of the largest city in Canada: Toronto, Ontario,” says Ian Chang, CEO of Vortex Gaming Ltd. “The people here are passionate, energetic, and full of imagination. We want to introduce them to the most exciting entertainment with the latest technology to the city.” Read more.

DNEG

DNEG, an Oscar award winning visual effects (VFX) and animation studio for the creation of feature film, television and multiplatform content, opened its studio in the King West district of Toronto in May of 2022. DNEG was able to hire 150 Toronto team members right off the bat and continues to grow over a year later. “I am thrilled with the progress DNEG has made over the past six months in establishing a strong presence in Ontario, with exciting career opportunities in visual effects work for film and episodic projects, feature animation, and technology,” said General Manager, Gavin Graham. Read more.

Want to learn more about companies who have expanded here? Click here.

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