Smart Home Technologies

How can Durham Region leverage Smart Home Technologies and 5G to empower citizens to interact with Regional services?

The initiative provides up to $50,000 in financial support to start-ups and SMEs for developing 5G enabled solutions, for the region and gaining market traction with a regional reference customer.

In partnership with The Regional Municipality of Durham and Spark Centre, the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI) is seeking to connect Ontario-based small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) to provide a solution to the challenge above. This is an opportunity to work with a private 5G testbed to develop technology that addresses a specific market opportunity. Through the OCI-ENCQOR 5G program, businesses can also apply for grant funding of up to $50,000. Select finalists will have the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the Region of Durham–supported by the Durham-based innovation centre, Spark Centre–to deliver a scalable solution for Durham Region.

The call for applications will be open January 15, 2021, for a three-week period. This call is focused on how applicants leverage 5G technologies, and specifically our 5G testbed to address the challenge our partner is facing. A short list of three to five companies will be selected to participate in a pitch session with the Region of Durham and area stakeholders, and the awarded challenge winner will work in conjunction with the Region to develop the chosen solution.

If your company is not selected, you will still have an opportunity to access and develop solutions on our 5G testbed, as well as apply for the $50,000 ENCQOR 5G grant.

Application Deadline: February 3, 2021

What is the Durham Region Smart City Challenge?

The Durham Region Smart City Challenge is a call for SME applicants across Ontario to answer the above challenge statement in conjunction with the Region to pilot the chosen solution(s). This will be an eight month engagement in which successful applicants must be willing to provide a cash equivalent match up to $50,000 in order to pivot/build a technology platform that will empower citizens to interact with Regional services using "open/public data" (ex. when is garbage day for zone #2, FAQ data). A successful applicant will help the region to proactively address frequent inbound requests that they receive.

The Region will support this initiative with executive sponsorship and provide dedicated internal resources providing assistance/data for pilots to take place within the region.

The program provides up to $50,000 in support to start-ups and SMEs for developing 5G enabled solutions, for the region and gaining market traction with a regional reference customer. The contribution is provided via reimbursement grants.

Support from Spark Centre

As the Regional Innovation Centre (RIC) for Durham Region and Northumberland County, Spark Centre is thrilled to participate as a partner for this initiative. Spark Centre is a business incubator that supports the launch, development and growth of early-stage and rapidly growing innovation and technology companies. Start-ups are supported through Spark Centre’s advisory services, specialized programming, office space and operational support.

Spark Centre is pleased to support the selected firm with the following:

  1. Six months of bi-weekly, one-hour advisory sessions for the sales, marketing and financial support of their Smart Home Technology solution. 
  2. Monthly meetings with Spark Centre advisory team and winner(s) to collectively measure traction
  3. $250 of marketing services through Creative Spark 
  4. Sharing the winner(s)’ accomplishments with our innovation community on Spark Centre social media channels.

Who’s eligible?

  • You are an Ontario-based start-up/SME (under 500 employees)
  • You use aspects of connectivity in your product or service

What can the money be used for?

Activities supported through this program include things such as product development, sourcing first customers and solving real business needs. The company must use the funds to:

  • Demonstrate a viable working prototype and/or
  • Make improvements to a product/services to achieve greater market traction and sales using aspects of connectivity (bonus: those with a focus on IoT, latency, and/or high bandwidth)

How is the money applied?

A non-repayable contribution of up to $50,000 will be applied towards the successful application. The contribution will come in the form of a reimbursement grant to help in the product and commercial development of the company to get them to the next level.

Reporting of Eligible In-Kind Contribution

A condition for the release of resources and professional services will require the company to provide a detailed project budget and to report on matching of eligible cash equivalent contributions on a minimum of a 1:1 basis to the funds obtained. Eligible and in-eligible in-kind contributions will be outlined and need to be reported as part of the client agreement that needs to be signed with OCI.

The nitty gritty (rules & regulations)

  • The applicant must not have received a grant through the ENCQOR 5G program in the past
  • The applicant must hold equity and a key position in the company
  • Successful applicants must also apply for access to our 5G testbed
  • Applicants must be in good financial and reporting standing
  • It is preferred that:
    • Start-ups/SMEs access and demonstrate project identified on one of our 5G testbeds (Waterloo, Toronto, Ottawa)

Wait a second, what do you mean by “Connectivity”?

Our ENCQOR 5G program is focused on advancing Ontario companies and making them more competitive globally. In doing so, we’ve established three 5G testbeds in Waterloo, Toronto, and Ottawa to provide hubs where companies can test, develop, and scale in an environment where connectivity is free. Thus, we focus on projects where Massive IoT, low latency, and high bandwidth are game changers for companies. For this call for applications, if you fall into any of those buckets – we’re looking for you!

How to Apply

Applications will be open until midnight on February 3, 2021

Complete the OCI Smart City: Durham Region Inquiry Form

After the application deadline, applications will be reviewed for completeness, eligibility, use of funds, ability to demonstrate a viable business proposal using aspects of connectivity, and the impact the project will have on your company’s business growth. The applications will be evaluated by the OCI 5G Advisory Committee who will make its recommendations to OCI. OCI will make the final decision and will notify the successful applicants.

Please note that successful applications will be required to:

  • Complete an ENCQOR 5G Access form
  • Provide a detailed Project Plan with milestones; preference will be given to projects that can be completed in less than 1 year
  • Provide quarterly progress reports using government supplied spreadsheets to detail among other things eligible in-kind contributions from the company
  • Provide documentation verifying incorporation, business number, etc.
  • Other documentation may be required


Cameron Lilly
Business Development and Commercialization Manager
Photo of John Chiappetta  John Chiappetta
Advanced Technology Platforms Lead