In a bid to spur the development of zero-emissions vehicles, Ontario will invest $56.4 million over the next four years to create the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN).
The new program is part of the Conservative government’s budget, tabled in Queen’s Park on Wednesday. It expands on the elements of the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network, established by the former Liberal government. OVIN is designed to accelerate the development of next-generation electric, connected and autonomous vehicle and mobility technologies.
The province said it will support “Ontario’s role as the manufacturing hub of Canada.”
“The OVIN will also encourage innovation and collaboration through partnerships between small and medium‐sized enterprises, academia, the auto industry and battery sector, including critical minerals development in Ontario’s North,” the government said. “Ontario has a vast network of leading auto manufacturers and suppliers as well as a dynamic technology sector. The province is well positioned to continue to lead on electric and autonomous vehicle research and technologies.”
Also as part of the 2021 budget, the government is committing $400 million over four years to create the Invest Ontario Fund, which is designed to encourage investments in the sectors of advanced manufacturing, technology and life sciences.
Brian Kingston, head of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, said the new OVIN and Ontario Fund will help the auto industry and broader economy recover from the economic downturn created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have long advocated for comprehensive incentive and investment attraction programs to position Ontario to win job-creating investments,” Kingston said in a statement. “Maintaining our share of automotive investments in North America requires a relentless commitment to competitiveness and investment attraction efforts.”
The new spending comes amid plans by the Detroit Three automakers to invest about $6 billion to assemble electric vehicles at their Ontario plants. The province also hopes to become home to an EV supply chain, including a large-scale battery plant.
Flavio Volpe, head of the Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, called the $54-million OVIN “a great commitment to advanced vehicle innovation.”
He also praised the government for earmarking $84 million to support the Skills Development Fund to help training and employment organizations assist workers during the province’s economic recovery. The funded projects are designed to give laid-off workers immediate access to training supports or new jobs, improve the quality of training, support traditionally underrepresented groups, increase apprentice registrations and completion, better serve local communities and support the talent needs of small businesses.
“The workplace of the future requires new training approaches, new skills training and the recruitment of underrepresented communities,” Volpe said. “The Ontario budget’s $85-million commitment to a Skills Development Fund focused on workers and businesses most affected by COVID-19 is exactly what we asked for.”