Funds support satellite development

Communitech is located at the Tannery building in Kitchener and is one of four businesses locally that received government funding. (File photo by Mike Lakusiak)
Communitech is located at the Tannery building in Kitchener and is one of four businesses locally that received government funding. (File photo by Mike Lakusiak)

With a recent grant from the federal government, local technology innovation centre, the Communitech Hub, is reaching up and out.

Up to $6.5 million has been given from the FedDev fund to Communitech to facilitate the launching of two small satellites  into space – one approximately the size of a milk carton and other the size of a milk crate – in conjunction with other partners and developers, including Cambridge-based company exactEarth Ltd. and the University of Toronto.

“It’s been an ongoing conversation with exactEarth and folks here at Communitech over the last couple of years, with FedDev as well,” said Glenn Smith, who is the director, project management, digital media at Communitech. “ExactEarth had many of the partnerships, they were engaged in conversation already and the idea was to formalize and use the FedDev funding as a catalyst.”
Smith added, “There’s money flowing to us from FedDev, but we are providing partnerships, industry partnerships and academic partnerships, that are delivering cash in kind at a same-dollar value to the project.”

The satellites will be used to track the movements of ships from space.

Explained exactEarth VP operations and engineering Philip Miller, “We can tell you where all the ships are at any given time. We have maps that we can produce, we provide data in any number of ways in which consumers of our data can know where ships are.”

The satellites will contribute to the data set that exactEarth provides to customers.

“Our role will be to define the requirements of the spacecraft to determine that they get built and we’ll be able to detect the ships as the business needs and the users of the world need for knowing where ships are,” Miller continued.

Both Stephen Woodworth, the MP for Kitchener Centre, and Peter Braid, MP for Kitchener-Waterloo, were present last Thursday at the Tannery building in Kitchener to announce the funding contribution. Businesses TribeHR, Djero Labs and exactEarth also received smaller, repayable contributions.

Funding such as this given through the technology development program, “is designed to address a funding gap between research and commercialization,” according to Woordworth. “We have a lot of good research out there but we want to be able to bring it to market in a way that can be traded around the world globally.”

The funding was also driven by a focus on increasing jobs and building the economy. The impact of these projects will directly create 166 skilled, full-time jobs in Waterloo Region, Woodworth established.

“Communitech has an excellent reputation,” he said on why Communitech was selected as a funding recipient. “They have a proven record of delivering, so we’re very excited about it.”

The satellites themselves are being designed and made at the University of Toronto.

Smith explained that some areas that the satellites could be used to explore are carbon monitoring and security and defense.

On why Communitech chose to become invested in this satellite creation project, Smith said, “One of the goals of the hub was to be helping business as they drove commercialization initiatives. It was a good fit for our team and our resources here to be able to assist in this business-driven commercialization project.”

“We are doing our best in Waterloo Region to promote ourselves as the Silicon Valley of the North and certainly Communitech is right at the center of that,” Woodworth added on the value of the investment locally. “I think we can all be very, very proud of that.”

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