In 1981, Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard L'Abbé co-founded Med-Eng Systems Inc. at the age of 24, two years after graduating from the University of Ottawa with a degree in mechanical engineering. From his initial position as production manager of the Ottawa-based manufacturer, he quickly became President and CEO, a position he held until he retired in late 2005. Under his leadership, Med-Eng became a major international player in the field of explosive ordnance disposal equipment.
L’Abbé has always firmly believed that to successfully create and market a product, you must have complete faith in it; there are no half-measures. With this in mind, he insisted on being closely involved in every facet of developing a range of innovative Med-Eng products, including in product design, testing and client relations. This steadfast commitment propelled his company to international success: by 2007, Med-Eng held over 80% of the global market share in bomb disposal suits, had signed contracts in some 120 countries, and had become a world leader in electronic countermeasures.
The business community took note of L’Abbé’s visionary leadership and expertise. Among his most notable distinctions, he was the first civilian to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators. Med-Eng has won the coveted Canada Export Award for its many accomplishments and is a platinum member of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies. In 2003, L’Abbé was named CEO of the Year by the Ottawa Business Journal and in 2008, he was recognized as Business Person of the Year by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association.
Richard L’Abbé is a proud alumnus and long-standing supporter of the University who is committed to using his engineering and business expertise to serve others. He is a member of the boards of the Ottawa Heart Institute and la Cité collégiale and served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ottawa from 2006 to 2012. He maintains close ties with the Faculty of Engineering: he is a member of the Faculty’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Endowment Fund advisory committee, which encourages entrepreneurship among budding engineers. He is also the creator of the Makerspace that bears his name, a unique invent-build-play space that fosters innovative creativity among students, faculty and the public. In 2000, he received the Faculty of Engineering Alumni Award of Excellence, and in 2013, his alma mater selected him to receive the prestigious Méritas Tabaret Award in recognition of his dedication and philanthropy.