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Ontario’s hub of aerospace education and innovation leverages the power of collaboration.

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There’s an impressive consortium working toward strengthening innovation in Canada’s aerospace industry, and it’s located in our own backyard.

Downsview Aerospace Innovation & Research, otherwise known as DAIR, is a non-profit comprised of aerospace companies, universities and colleges with a clear mission: It brings together “industry and academic partners in highly collaborative spaces designed to enable cutting-edge research and development (R&D) to accelerate sustainable technology adoption for the industry, create training solutions for business and technology challenges and provide entrepreneurial support for startups and small- and medium-sized enterprises,” explains Maryse Harvey, DAIR’s executive director. “Its primary purpose is to enable innovative collaboration between industry and academia to strengthen the Ontario aerospace ecosystem. Our immediate goals are to foster strong R&D partnerships and create transformational solutions that can significantly boost our industry’s competitiveness.” (The consortium is made up of Bombardier; Centennial College; Safran; De Havilland Aircraft of Canada; Lassonde School of Engineering at York University; Ryerson University; OVA; University of Toronto; Fibos; Burloak Technologies; and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Canada Aerospace.) Some of the incredible research currently being worked on includes aeroacoustics (identifying efficient noise-reduction concepts); aircraft interiors focusing on passenger comfort; anti-icing technologies; hybrid-electric propulsion system to power unmanned aerial vehicles; new lightweight and multifunctional materials; next-generation landing gear technologies; and solar-powered, long-range, unmanned aerial vehicles.

Some of the incredible research currently being
developed includes aeroacoustics; aircraft interiors
focusing on passenger comfort; anti-icing technologies; hybrid-electric propulsion systems to power unmanned aerial vehicles; next-generation landing gear technologies, and more.

Aerospace is a key industry for both Ontario and Canada — pre-COVID-19, the sector was responsible for more than 213,000 jobs in Canada, and it generated more than $31 billion in revenue annually across Canada. It is consistently the top-ranked R&D industry in Canadian manufacturing. As for Ontario, the province houses a large aerospace cluster (home to more than 200 aerospace firms and more than 44,000 jobs) that accounts for nearly $6.5 billion of Ontario’s annual gross domestic product, and it’s $500 million of the $1.4 billion the country spends annually in R&D that’s spent in Ontario.

The hub brings these vital aerospace players together to a centralized location, allowing them to benefit from better training and collaboration. “DAIR is about leveraging the power of collaboration. While we hear a lot about collaboration, it’s not easy to practice. It requires trust, and trust is based on the mindset of the partners involved in it. This is the type of environment that DAIR wants to create — a space where the likeminded partners are enabled to pool their resources and talent to produce an outcome that is significantly greater that it would have been if the players has been acting unilaterally,” Harvey says. “Collaboration also helps to generate better ideas and solutions more effectively.” For example, in 2020, DAIR responded to support COVID-19 research by working on a project that studied how to reduce passenger exposure to the virus inside an aircraft. “By leveraging access to an extensive expertise pool, as well as established relationships with industry and academia, DAIR was able to accelerate funding applications and reduce wait times to initiate and advance this key research.”

There’s plenty going on at DAIR’s Toronto-based site. Phase one was to have academic institutions co-located onsite. “The first phase of establishing this aerospace hub has been completed with the construction and opening of a new 130,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Centennial College aerospace campus and the Ryerson Aerospace Engineering Centre at the Downsview site,” says Harvey. “Joining them onsite in 2021 was a new research-and-development lab led by partners Safran Landing Systems and Centennial College to develop new technologies in landing gear to advance fuel-efficiency and environmental sustainability
for the global aerospace sector. The U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) has also indicated its intention to move its entire facility to the site in the near future.”

Phase two is the refurbishment of the historic Moth Building: the DAIR headquarters and co-location facility. Harvey says construction of the new facility is anticipated to begin in 2022, with a planned opening in the fall of 2023. “The new Moth Building will include collaborative research space and co-location office space, as well as classrooms and event space.”

The final phase will see a state-of-the-art Aerospace Innovation Centre built at Downsview Park. “The Centre will be composed of several buildings, which will be customized to meet the specific requirements of the occupant, either from academia or industry. These facilities will include classrooms, research labs, shared equipment and multifunctional areas with event, office and training spaces available for sector-wide and pan-Canadian activities,” she says. “The new facility will become the focal point of the Downsview Aerospace Hub and will help drive significant long-term innovation in sustainability, training and collaboration benefits for the aerospace sector throughout Canada and globally.”

Another exciting facility onsite is the 6,500-square-foot Landing Gear Innovation Laboratory, which aims to convert aircraft landing gear from hydraulic to electrical through the development of a new electrical system and weight reduction of the current landing gear system. “The lab consists of test rigs designed to validate actuation components and systems, as well as an environmental chamber,” says Harvey. “Together with Safran Landing Systems, Centennial College is exploring this very important area of landing gear innovation and aircraft sustainability. “At the end of the day, through its strategic impact on the aerospace
sector, DAIR is about ensuring that Canada plays to its strengths and continues to build the industry allowing it to thrive and create the wealth required to maintain our quality of life that make our nation so great,” she says. “Our impact goes much beyond aerospace.

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