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Trudeau Grabs Spotlight While MPs Announce $42-Million In Tech-Related Investments

SAINT JOHN – All eyes were on Prime Minister Trudeau on his visit to New Brunswick this week as he chatted with residents and posed for selfies during visits to Saint John, Quispamsis and Miramichi. With much less fanfare, his backbench MPs made tech-related funding announcements at the same time that boosted the innovative capacities of organizations and companies in the province.

On Wednesday morning, Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long was at offices of Mariner Partners in the city centre to announce $3.1-million in funding for the tech firm’s new quality-assurance software, SONAR4 Assurance Analytics. It’s a $5-million total investment that employs 13 or 14 people now and upwards of 100 in the next year as the company rolls out its new product for companies in the communications industry.

“Since 2003, Mariner has been delivering innovative, advanced IP and video solutions to customers both in Canada and abroad,” said Long to a small gathering of company executives, and representatives from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the prime minister’s office in the Mariner’s 18th-floor offices overlooking the Saint John Harbour.

“We’re very fortunate to have such a cutting-edge firm based here in Saint John contributing to our local economy while also promoting the region’s reputation and certainly this city’s reputation as a leader in the ICT sector.”

The product itself s difficult to grasp for an ordinary consumer, but Jim Foran, vice-president of strategic development for Mariner, says it’s essentially quality assurance software for telecommunications companies that are increasingly reliant on “the cloud” (or wireless delivery platforms) and less dependent on the traditional physical infrastructure of telephone and TV providers.

“You can still answer an upset customer, address their problem … and also have you drive down your own economics around trouble-shooting where you might say, ‘We understand this problem. It was in the cloud and has nothing to do with the customer’s premises. Let’s not send technicians to [their home.] Let’s figure out a way to build more resilience in the cloud,” said Foran in an interview at Mariner.

Ottawa invests $4.1-million in “smart grid” electricity project in Saint John

On Thursday morning, Long was on the city’s west side announcing a $4.1-million investment in modernizing Saint John’s electric grid which will improve electricity delivery and reduced pollution.

Saint John Energy’s new “Smart Grid Integrated Dispatchable Resource Network” will involve developing artificial intelligence to help optimize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Saint John’s existing system, ensuring a more resilient and reliable power system and providing long-term rate stability to customers.

Last week, the city-owned utility announced it was issuing a call for proposals for a company to construct, own and operate a wind farm to supply power to the city’s electrical grid.

RELATED: Saint John Energy Seeks Developer To Build $3-Million Wind Farm On West Side

Ray Robinson President and CEO, Saint John Energy, says the smart grid project will help the utility make the switch to clean power initiatives like this by modernizing traditional power systems to be more digitally networked and flexible. The ultimate goal is to lower polluting emissions by making Canada’s grids smarter and more efficient.

“The convergence of the internet of things and artificial intelligence is unlocking exciting opportunities for utilities and their consumers to work together to target cost and environmental impact reductions,” said Robinson in a release. “Saint John Energy prides itself in being a low-cost, highly reliable utility that offers consumer choice. This project presents another opportunity that will leverage the nimble nature of Saint John Energy and contribute to growing the Smart Energy entrepreneurial eco-system in the province.”

Long said the funding will help Saint John Energy continue on the path to offering a low-cost, more environmentally service to consumers.

“The convergence of the internet of things and artificial intelligence is unlocking exciting opportunities for utilities and their consumers to work together to target cost and environmental impact reductions,” said Long. “Saint John Energy prides itself in being a low-cost, highly reliable utility that offers consumer choice. This project presents another opportunity that will leverage the nimble nature of Saint John Energy and contribute to growing the Smart Energy entrepreneurial eco-system in the province.”

Ottawa contributes $35.66-million to N.B., Nova Scotia clean-energy project

Up Highway 7 in Fredericton, MP Matt DeCourcey made the biggest announcement of the day.

The federal government has committed $35.66-million to Siemens, NB Power and Nova Scotia Power to help pay for a $92.7-million pilot project aimed at analyzing challenges and opportunities posed by Canada’s transition to renewable energy supplies.

Siemens, NB Power and Nova Scotia Power will research and test in real-time how the grid of the future can optimize integration of renewables, ensure the stability of the grid and manage decentralized distribution in order to better manage the provinces’ electricity, potentially reduce future electricity costs for consumers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The pilot, called the Smart Grid Atlantic project, is being funded in part by the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund.

Siemens will research and develop the made-in-Canada ESP (Energy System Platform) software. NB Power and Nova Scotia Power will provide the needed assets and customer engagement to demonstrate and test these platforms in real scenarios and real time.

“This partnership will be truly ground-breaking. Together with NB Power and Nova Scotia Power, we will develop and implement a powerful cloud-based [platform], allowing everyone to participate in the energy market,” said Siemens president and CEO Faisal Kazi in a release.

“The ESP will enable data analytics, ensure connectivity, and provide tools for developers to create customer-focused applications and services. The platform will also optimize the overall electrical grid accelerate transitioning into a greener future not only in Canada but throughout the globe.”

DeCourcey said the investment will help make the region a world leader in clean energy and be a job-creator too.

“Our investment of $35.66 million will help create and maintain 241 good jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensures our position as world leaders in clean technologies,” said DeCourcey in a Facebook post. “Siemens, NB Power and NS Power will develop more efficient, reliable, and affordable power grids for New Brunswickers and Atlantic Canadians.”

Banner photo: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MP Wayne Long chat with people in the Saint John City Market at lunch on Thursday. Image: Mark Leger/Huddle.