Hamilton Economic Development

Amazon, Nokia invest in Hamilton incubator focused on autonomous vehicle research

Money and in-kind services will go to new autonomous vehicle and ‘smart city’ incubator headed by Innovation Factory.

Industry heavyweights Amazon and Nokia are offering millions of dollars to help develop an autonomous vehicle and “smart city” lab at McMaster Innovation Park.

The private investment of cash and in-kind services, worth $4.3 million over five years, comes just weeks after the province tapped Hamilton’s Innovation Factory and its partners as one of six “regional technology development sites” across Ontario. Those sites will share $80 million for autonomous vehicle research and related transportation infrastructure.

The MIP-based tech and innovation incubator expects to focus on how autonomous vehicles will affect multimodal transportation and the design of “smart cities,” said executive director David Carter.

“We’re seeing some pretty significant investment in this effort, so we’re pretty excited,” said Carter. “We’re basically going to be able to build and experiment with a private smart city environment … like city infrastructure in a box.”

The companies announced their support during an industry event Tuesday in Toronto, Carter said. The Spectator was unable to immediately reach company spokespeople for comment.

Carter said Amazon Web Services announced $1-million worth of “product credits” for cloud-based, in-kind services. Basically, that will allow startup companies and entrepreneurs to experiment using Amazon-based software and tools at no cost, or access expertise from company engineers.

He said Nokia’s $3.3-million commitment will help create a private 5G cellular network for the innovation hub as well as a lab featuring real-world infrastructure.

Carter used the idea of “smart” street lights with artificial intelligence aimed at monitoring traffic and preventing accidents as a theoretical example of what might end up in such a lab.

“Obviously, we can’t go to the City of Hamilton and ask to play with their street lights,” he said. “This (lab) will allow us to experiment with what a modern city environment might look like.”

Carter said he cannot yet reveal Hamilton’s share of the $80 million on offer from the provincially funded Ontario Centres of Excellence.

But Innovation Factory is partnering as a regional tech development site with the city, Mohawk College and McMaster University.

Three McMaster University applied researchers will be involved with the autonomous vehicle lab, variously focusing on software development, evolving transportation systems and powertrains, said Nick Markettos, interim CEO for the McMaster Innovation Park.

The regional tech site will operate out of the MIP atrium on Longwood Road as well as the nearby McMaster Automotive Resource Centre. Markettos said he expected Innovation Factory to expand within the existing footprint of the park.

Article courtesy of Matthew Van Dongen, The Hamilton Spectator




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