Siemens and Québec – a history of innovation and economic growth 

Siemens Mobility is renowned for its innovative and superior technologies currently transforming the travel experiences of people, within and between some of the greatest cities in the world. And here, in Québec, we are dedicating ourselves to earning the right to do the same for the large transit projects announced by all levels of government. I admit, like many Quebecers, until I joined the company, I was not aware that the Siemens name was behind much more than meets the eye, not only in Canada, but right here, in Québec. I thought it may be useful to share a bit of Siemens’ history and contribution to Québec’s economy. 


Founded 175 years ago by a visionary inventor, Werner von Siemens, today Siemens is a global technology company providing innovative and reliable products and services in almost every sector of the economy, in almost every country.  Siemens’ first contribution to Canada goes back to 1874, shortly after Confederation when, it was involved in laying the first transatlantic telegraph cables between Europe and North America, from Ireland to Halifax. And in 1912, Siemens established itself permanently in Canada, in Montreal, as the Siemens Company of Canada, Limited.  


Since then, Siemens has proudly been involved in executing several iconic projects and Canadian firsts:  the first national telex network, the earliest text-based message network communication in 1957, the first modern light rail systems in North America (Edmonton, 1975, then Calgary), the design and installation of the world’s first retractable roof at Toronto’s Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) in 1989 and the first filmless hospital in Montreal – allowing for simultaneous digital image and data viewing – in 1998.  Siemens lights literally illuminated areas of Expo’67, as well as both the CN Tower and Niagara Falls.  The company’s electronic expertise was also featured in the modernization of Canada’s famous icebreaker, the Louis S. St. Laurent (1988-1993) which was instrumental in helping ships transiting along the St. Lawrence River and the Arctic.


Back in 1912, its first office was situated in Montreal’s Transportation building, located at the southeast corner of what is now Saint-Jacques and St. Francois Xavier Streets. In 1968, the company moved to its “Red Barn” offices in Pointe Claire, where it stayed for more than a quarter of a century.  Today, there continue to be offices in Montreal and Québec City and the Siemens name is proudly behind several manufacturing operations throughout the province, supporting innovation and providing individuals with well-paying jobs, while ensuring a strong future for the province.  


At the Trois-Rivieres plant, Siemens Energy is providing energy-efficient transformers and its Lachine facility is currently manufacturing and conducting R&D for aero-derivative gas turbines. The Siemens plant in Drummondville manufactures electrical products for automation and just celebrated its 50th Anniversary.

Siemens’ healthcare technology has also been instrumental in protecting the health of Quebecers for decades.  Healthcare innovations were introduced as early as 1933 when Siemens supplied the Hotel Dieu hospital in Montreal with safer diagnostic X-ray machines.  In 1998, the city’s Charles LeMoyne hospital became the first completely filmless hospital, thanks to its use of Siemens medical imaging technology system. 


Indeed, Siemens has a proud storied Canadian history.  But what I’m most excited about is the exciting future we have in store – not only throughout Canada, but  here, in Québec.


Throughout its 50 years, Siemens’ Drummondville plant found a way to successfully navigate through the inevitable ups and down that come with economic downturns, political shifts . . . and global pandemics. The company’s overall forward vision in embracing changes to the marketplace, supporting manufacturers as they move to Industry 4.0 and embracing automation and robotics within its own operations, has been instrumental in significantly improving its efficiency and outputs. 


Siemens has begun an exciting partnership with Québec’s Ministry of Economy and Innovation to scale-up these innovative efficiencies in the province. Together, they have developed a network of four Industrial Expertise Centers built to help Québec manufacturers discover, experience and test the latest technologies to digitally transform their businesses. Siemens has invested $6.5 million to outfit the Centers with the latest hardware, software and networking systems, as well as provided each location with specialists who collaborate and consult directly with manufacturers. The first center, in Longueil, Québec opened in July 2020. Since then, three other locations in Saint-Laurent, Drummondville and Québec City, have also opened their doors.


Across Canada today, Siemens companies are working on exciting, innovative projects. Look at NB Power for example in New Brunswick. Together we are ensuring that the grid of the future can optimize the integration of renewable energy sources, ensure stability of the grid and manage decentralized distribution – ultimately it will potentially reduce consumers' future electricity costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Siemens is also providing and protecting power in Québec. By modernizing older substations that are not centrally controlled and upgrading them with digitalized capabilities such as remote monitoring and maintenance and enhanced cybersecurity, the system will be more resilient.  


Today, medical researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ont. are using Siemens’ imaging technology to study brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s and stroke.  In Québec alone, there are more than 800 Siemens imaging systems, including CT, MRI and Ultrasound, installed.  There are also some 750 diagnostics systems installed throughout the province, providing blood and urine testing in laboratories or point of care facilities.    


And Siemens showed its commitment to our community last year. The company partnered with Québec-based CAE, providing products for its certified Made-In Canada CAE Air1™ ventilators. These are currently being used by governments in hospitals across the country in our ongoing fight against COVID-19.   


As the head of Siemens Mobility in Canada, I am particularly excited about the innovations that will be featured on the new VIA Rail trainsets ordered to help modernize the fleet traveling along the busy Windsor-Québec corridor.  These new trainsets will represent one of the most environmentally friendly fleets in North America, and provide unparalleled, barrier-free and fully accessible travel for our next generation of Canadian travelers. And again, despite the challenges posed by the current pandemic, Siemens Mobility delivered and commissioned this new fleet’s first trainset, in Montreal, on-time and on-budget!


Furthermore, Siemens Mobility Canada acquired in July 2021, RailTerm, a railway infrastructure maintenance and dispatching services company, operating in Ontario and Québec. It is a testament to our belief in the growing importance of sustainable and resilient rail infrastructure in our quest to deliver 100% availability. To do so, we help our customers, the rail system operators keep their rail systems evolving with the latest world-class technologies.  By all accounts, over the next decade, Canada’s rail system will undergo an important transformation: one that promises to be as transformative to our country as the build-out of the transcontinental railway that brought our country together over 135 years ago. Canadians are about to see passenger rail networks (subways, tramways, regional and intercity trains) better able to support the need for efficient, reliable, safe and sustainable mobility for the next generations of Canadians, while ensuring the continued safety, economic growth and operational efficiency of Canada’s most important freight rail industry.


Finally, the development of digital technology across all its products and services will maintain Siemens Mobility’s leadership in transforming people’s mobility experience. For rail operators, digitalization will optimize asset utilization and availability. For travellers, it will form the foundation of an exciting multi-modal system:  one that will provide a variety of transportation choices based on different criteria, needs and abilities.  Importantly, this will reduce the carbon footprint created by people’s mobility. It will introduce an era of shared mobility that is safer, more efficient, reliable and sustainable, across all modes, for all passengers.  


Yes, a lot has happened in this country since Siemens entered more than 100 years ago.  Siemens, too, has undergone many changes throughout the past century:  some of its companies have been sold, some have been bought.  Other companies have successfully branched out on their own. But one thing hasn’t changed: There is much shared history between Siemens and Canada – and between Siemens and Québec. And today more than ever, Canadians and Quebecers are bringing the power and innovation of world-class technologies to our communities and in doing so, it is developing local knowledge and expertise that is truly Canadian. The best is yet to come. Stay tuned!


Written by:
Yves Desjardins Siciliano, CEO
Siemens Mobility Limited