Businesspeople celebrate Ford's future driverless car centre in Kanata

Business leaders in Ottawa are celebrating the announcement of a new cutting-edge research centre in Kanata that will focus on new car technology, including autonomous vehicles.

$337.9M set aside to create Ottawa Research and Engineering Centre

QNX brought this Lincoln MKZ, the first self-driving car shown in Ottawa, to the Autonomous Vehicles Summit in Kanata in January. Ford will be opening a research centre in Ottawa that will focus on self-driving vehicles, as well as infotainment and driver-assist features. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Business leaders in Ottawa are celebrating the announcement of a new cutting-edge research centre in Kanata that will focus on new car technology, including autonomous vehicles, and add close to 300 jobs in the capital. 

The research and development centre is part of a billion-dollar partnership between Ford Canada and the federal and Ontario governments.

Ford announced Thursday it would provide $337.9 million in funding to set up the Ottawa Research and Engineering Centre, which will focus on infotainment, driver-assist features and autonomous vehicles.

"I'm thrilled to hear this announcement," said Jenna Sudds, president of the Kanata North Business Association.

"I think it speaks miles to the amount of activity and the level of innovation and excellence happening here specifically in autonomous vehicles and connected cars."

Some BlackBerry employees will move to Ford

In a statement issued Thursday, BlackBerry said approximately 400 of their engineers in Canada and the United States have accepted offers to move from BlackBerry to Ford as part of a partnership between the two companies. 

Of the 400 workers, 295 will be located in Ottawa, according to a spokeswoman for Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli. 

"These companies often like to be located in proximity to their suppliers, collaborators and competitors," Sudds said. 

"We are very fortunate to have incredibly deep telecom roots in Kanata North and an incredible amount of R&D and activity happening around 5G networks and the next generation of networks that are necessary to enable these connected cars.

"Ford certainly has a strong partnership already in place with QNX, who is a world leader in automotive software in 60 per cent of the cars around the world already."

BlackBerry subsidiary QNX opened its autonomous vehicle innovation centre in Kanata in December 2016.

'It's a really big deal'

Earlier this month, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson led a delegation of tech leaders, including QNX's senior vice president John Wall, to Queen's Park to speak with Ontario's premier and ministers in support of high-tech initiatives in Ottawa, particularly autonomous vehicles.

"This is great news," Watson said.

Mike Tremblay, president of Invest Ottawa, says Ford's new centre will allow the autonomous car sector in the capital to grow even stronger. (CBC)

"We're on a real roll, excuse the pun, when it comes to autonomous vehicles and the work that goes with that. And I'm very, very optimistic that we'll see even greater job creation in that field."

Mike Tremblay, president of Invest Ottawa, agreed with the mayor's outlook.

"It's a really big deal," Tremblay said. "Our place in the country is very clear when you see announcements like today happen. This sets us up for technologies that are related to autonomous vehicles that will allow us to grow and build. So this is one announcement of many that I would foresee in the future. It's very good for Ottawa."