Governments dole out millions at auto show | Crain's Toronto

Governments dole out millions at auto show

The Nissan Vmotion 2.0 Concept is among the new vehicles in the spotlight at the 2017 Canadian International Auto Show, which wraps up Sunday in Toronto. | Photo by John Bauld via Creative Commons. 

The Canadian and Ontario governments are making a splash at the 2017 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, showing up with their wallets open and handing out millions of dollars in grants and project funding to several firms specializing in automotive innovation.  

Navdeep Singh Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development, led things off with a Feb. 16 announcement of a repayable contribution of up to $17 million to Lakeshore, Ont.-based Astrex Inc. The company will spend the cash on a new facility focused on building high-strength lightweight aluminum components that will increase fuel efficiency and cut emissions.

The investment, from the federal government's $200 million FedDev Ontario Advanced Manufacturing Fund, will also create 62 full-time jobs in 2017, with 24 more promised in the next two years. 

"At Astrex, we have created a facility at the leading edge of aluminum extrusion technology," said Astrex GM Mark Blackmore. "And with the support of the government of Canada, we are proud to be able to create more manufacturing jobs in the Windsor area." 

Promoting better batteries

Bains also announced a one-time, nonrepayable contribution of $1.2 million to Ottawa, Ont.-based GBatteries Energy Canada Inc., to further its work on developing long-lasting batteries for electric cars. The contribution comes as part of the SD Tech Fund from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, an independent organization funded at arm's length by the government of Canada which supports clean technology projects. GBatteries is barely five years old, but has already sold its technology in 38 countries. 

"The investments made today in Astrex and GBatteries will lead to new products and services that are more energy-efficient, emit lower carbon emissions and promote healthier communities," Bains said. "The investments will give middle-class Canadians working in the auto sector the opportunity to design and build the cars of the future. In the process, they'll develop the skills that prepare them for the jobs of the future. That's how innovation leads to a better Canada."

GBatteries CEO Tim Sherstyuk says the investment in his young company is a sound one.

"The electrification revolution is moving full speed ahead, and electrical vehicles are on a path to replace conventional cars," he said. "Electronic consumer devices, from smartphones to wireless headphones, are flooding the market. The need for these devices to charge faster, and use longer lasting batteries has never been higher."

Project funding detailed

Brad Duguid, Ontario's minister of economic development and growth, was also at the car show, announcing the funding of 20 new technology innovation projects from small and mid-sized suppliers looking to put a global spotlight on Ontario's crucial automotive manufacturing industry.

To qualify, projects must be capable of completion in two years or less, and must contribute to the adoption of industry-leading IT. They will each be eligible for funding of up to $100,000, and that funding must be matched by private industry. The funding is part of a collaboration among the Ontario government, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association  and the government-funded not-for-profit organization Ontario Centres of Excellence.  

"Ontario's comprehensive and technology-intensive supply chain is a major asset as the province advocates for new automotive investment and vehicle production work," Duguid said. "Through this program, we're ensuring that more auto parts companies have access to leading-edge information technology that will boost innovation and increase productivity."

The 2017 Canadian International AutoShow continues at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre through Sunday, Feb 26.

February 17, 2017 - 5:59pm