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Ottawa pledges $40M for Nokia to conduct 5G research

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Ottawa will announce up to $40 million for Finnish telecom giant Nokia on Thursday to conduct research on 5G wireless technology in Canada.

The funding comes as the federal government is in the middle of a comprehensive national-security review of the potential involvement of Nokia’s Chinese rival, Huawei, in Canada’s eventual fifth generation mobile network.

Ottawa is also locked in a diplomatic dispute with Beijing following Canada’s Dec. 1 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States.

Huawei, Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson are among the top contenders to help Canada’s telecom companies, including BCE and Telus, build the country’s 5G mobile networks.

Three of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group — the United States, Australia and New Zealand — have banned the use of Huawei products in 5G network development based on fears the company could spy on behalf of China.

Canada’s Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, who along with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is responsible for overseeing the 5G security review, has said the analysis is not just about Huawei and is designed to assess how best to protect Canadians.

Bains finalized the Nokia deal Thursday in Davos, Switzerland, where he’s participating in the World Economic Forum.

Canada’s ongoing scrutiny of Huawei has created concerns within the Chinese government. Lu Shaye, China’s envoy to Ottawa, warned Canada last week of possible repercussions if the government ultimately decides to bar Huawei from building the country’s 5G networks.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson later tried to play down Lu’s remarks by saying the ambassador didn’t mean that China intended to interfere in Ottawa’s decision-making process. Hua Chunying also told journalists in Beijing on Monday that losses would be inevitable since Huawei is a leading supplier of 5G technology, according to a transcript on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Later the same day, Bains and Goodale told reporters that Huawei isn’t the only company that can build 5G in Canada. When asked about options, Bains mentioned Ericsson as an example.

Few details are available about Canada’s 5G security review, but a well-placed source has said a decision is still months away.

The development of 5G — or fifth-generation — mobile networks will give users much faster connections and provide powerful data capacity to meet heavy demand from new applications, such as virtual reality, as people connect more devices to the internet.

The federal funding will back Nokia’s research work in Canada to help telecom networks meet the needs of 5G technology. The company is also developing cybersecurity tools to protect telecom networks.

The government is expected to sell the deal as a way to support more than 2,000 of Nokia’s jobs already in Canada and to create 237 new positions. Nokia Canada’s projects, valued at over $214 million, are based in Mississauga, Ont., and the Ottawa suburb of Kanata.

Ottawa will also invest up to $35.7 million towards a $92.7-million partnership between Siemens Canada engineering company, and Atlantic Canada utilities Nova Scotia Power and New Brunswick Power. The deal calls for Siemens Canada to conduct research and development on smart-grid technology for power systems in the provinces.

The government’s Siemens and Nokia commitments will be made through a federal program known as the strategic innovation fund.

The issue of whether Huawei is allowed to build the country’s 5G networks has connections to a diplomatic crisis over Canada’s recent arrest of Meng, the company’s chief financial officer and daughter of its founder.

Canadian police arrested Meng at Vancouver’s airport at the request of American authorities, who are seeking her extradition on fraud allegations.

Her arrest has angered Beijing, and the case is at the heart of tensions between Canada and China. The Chinese government says Meng has done nothing wrong and has demanded her release, warning Canada of severe consequences if it doesn’t free her.

After her arrest, China detained two Canadians. Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, were taken in on allegations of engaging in activities that have endangered China’s national security.

In recent weeks, China also sentenced another Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, to death in a sudden retrial of his drug-smuggling case. He was originally handed a 15-year jail term in 2016, but the court gave him the death penalty after revisiting his case.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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