On Tuesday, the Government of Canada announced an investment of up to $11.1 million in order to develop a “made-in-Canada” Smart Cities Innovation Cluster.
The funding, which comes through FedDev Ontario, will go to Innovate Cities, a newly-founded consortium of seven information and communications technology (ICT) companies involved in smart cities tech that will develop the cluster. According to the government, the goal of Smart Cities Innovation Cluster is to connect data from commercial and residential buildings with public spaces in order to create safer, more accessible, and more energy-efficient spaces across Canada.
“The investments announced today are great news for Toronto, for southern Ontario, and for all of Canada.”
– MP Marco Mendicino
In a four-year project, the cluster will look to develop an open-source, cloud-based platform for startups and scaleups to prototype and sell their smart cities technology. Two “large-scale” demonstration projects will also be established across southern Ontario to test these innovations in real-world environments. Innovate Cities, will also use the funding to create a Canada-based data trust to “manage the use, sharing and sovereignty of data collected through the cluster.” The organization will also launch a “Centre of Excellence” in order to attract investments in smart cities tech.
The government stated that as a result of this project, 45 companies will be supported, up to 10 new patents will be developed, and nearly 175 jobs will be created within the smart cities ecosystem across southern Ontario.
The $11.1 million was part of a broader FedDev funding announcement that saw six Toronto-based organizations in total receive an overall $53.3 million.
Yves Landry Foundation
Yves Landry Foundation, which looks to advance education and skills training in Canadian industries facing skill shortages, is also set to receive up to $11 million. Founded in 1998 by leaders in Canada’s manufacturing and business sectors, Yves will use the funding to extend its ‘Achieving Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence (AIME) Global initiative’ into 2021. AIME typically offers manufacturers in south, central, and eastern Ontario up to $100,000 to offset the costs of training expenses related to supporting innovation and achieving a competitive advantage. The $11 million will be set aside to support the adoption of clean technologies, as well as to provide training for Indigenous peoples, women, and youth.
University of Toronto
An investment of up to $10 million will go to the University of Toronto. The university is looking to “transform” the Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform (SOSCIP), a research and development computing consortium developed in collaboration between 15 Ontario post-secondary institutions, IBM Canada, and other small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SOSCIP works to connect industry with academic researchers in order to use advanced computing to solve social, technical, and business challenges across a range of sectors. The $10 million is meant to help SOSCIP become “a first-in-Canada artificial intelligence (AI) innovation platform” to help 150 SMEs adopt AI.
Toronto Global and OBIO
Toronto Global, a not-for-profit agency business development agency, will also see up to $10 million in FedDev funding to continue its work in attracting foreign business and investment to the Toronto region.
The Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization (OBIO) will also receive up to $6.24 million in order to expand its Capital Access Advisory Program, as well as launch a Technology Early Adoption program to connect 400 health science companies with access to capital, coaching, and market readiness support.
Finally, Palette Skills, the Toronto-based nonprofit dedicated to retraining workers in light of automation and the digital economy, is set to receive up to $5 million from FedDev. This investment follows the $1,117,879 that Palette received from the federal government in June, through the Ministry of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour’s Sectoral Initiatives Program (SIP).
“The investments announced today are great news for Toronto, for southern Ontario, and for all of Canada,” said Marco Mendicino, parliamentary secretary to the minister of infrastructure and communities and MP for Eglinton–Lawrence, who was on hand to make the announcement. “Investing in innovative organizations and supporting them as they seek to harness the power of our digital economy and the wealth of skills, knowledge, and talent in our region is critical to remaining on the leading edge of innovation and economic growth.”
Calling the Toronto-region “the economic engine of Canada,” the federal government stated that these investments are expected to support 870 companies overall and create, and maintain, more than 7,500 jobs in southern Ontario.
Lead up to the election
The large funding announcement comes just as the federal parties are beginning to ramp up for the upcoming election in October. Earlier this week, Navdeep Bains the minister in charge of Canada’s regional development agencies (RDAs), including FedDev and Atlantics Canada’s ACOA, also announced $370,000 in ACOA funding to Acadian University’s entrepreneurship centre. The investment is meant to support the Acadian Entrepreneurship Centre’s programming as well as help fund two pilot projects with local businesses.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, which made several announcements last week as part of its Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, is expected to make more announcements this week in support of Canada’s tech and innovation sector.