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Accelerating Innovation For The Communities of Tomorrow

If you’re a startup or SME with innovation in electric and connected vehicles, smart mobility and smart community solutions, you need a world-class ecosystem to take that innovation from idea to market. You need Durham RTDS.


The assets contained within Durham’s tight community of innovators is a startup’s treasure trove.” – Sherry Colbourne, CEO, Spark Centre


The Durham Region Technology Development Site (or Durham RTDS for short) is one of six regional technology development sites that are part of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN). A key component of the Government of Ontario’s plan for positioning Ontario as a North American leader in developing emerging technologies and advanced manufacturing processes, OVIN harnesses Ontario’s regional strengths and capabilities to bridge its automotive and technology clusters and promote the development of Ontario-made electric vehicles, advanced automotive technologies and smart mobility solutions.

Through the investment of more than $85 million from the Ontario Centre for Innovation, these six regional technology development sites were formed across Ontario to support startups and small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the development, testing, prototyping, validation and commercialization of electric and connected vehicle technology and smart mobility solutions.

Durham RTDS was born in 2017 as one of these regional technology development sites. A high-calibre collective of innovation centres, R&D and testing facilities, academia and municipalities in the Durham Region, Durham RTDS, work together to connect local and international startups and SMEs who have electric and connected mobility, transportation and community technologies to the vital resources they need to take their innovation from idea to Canadian and global markets.

Over the years, Durham Region has become an internationally recognized smart community and a leader in adopting innovation and technology. Durham Region was the first regional municipality in Canada to implement artificial intelligence for pothole detection. In fact, in 2022, Durham Region was named one of the Smart 21 Communities of the year for the second year and was awarded a Smart 50 Award for Mobility for optimizing road maintenance using artificial intelligence.

Durham Region’s willingness to embrace innovation and technology has furthered success for many startups, such as Kevares Autonomous Services, which provides autonomous mobile robots for municipal services such as sidewalk inspections, litter collection and more. In addition, numerous successful projects have been spun out of Durham Region, including the development and build of Canada’s Project Arrow zero-emissions concept vehicle and WAVE, the Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric Shuttle Project, which was fully integrated into an existing transit service.


It takes a village to accelerate the adoption of technology for community advancement, and Durham RTDs is proof that collaboration between multiple organizations can achieve this.   


At the core of Durham RTDS are Regional Innovation Centre (RIC) Spark Centre, Durham College’s applied research centres, Ontario Tech University’s Automotive Centre of Excellence and Climatic Wind Tunnel and one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Ontario, the Durham Region. These four organizations collaborate with each other and a host of industry and community partners to advance smart mobility and communities.

“The unique difference offered by the Durham RTDS to companies developing electric and smart mobility technology solutions lies in its partner makeup, which provides complete end-to-end support.” says Chris Gillis, Manager, Applied Research Business Development at Durham College, “In one collaborative ecosystem we have the ability to connect with and attract SMEs, including those from an increasingly important international market place, support these companies with business and technical expertise, provide specialized resources, and have a community end user (of the technology) who can both identify key needs plus provide demonstration project opportunities leading to commercialization. It is very unusual to find all of this in one place!”

From world-class equipment, specialized hardware and software, research facilities, and testbeds (including climatic and geographic testing) to one-on-one advisory from industry experts, specialized programming, access to funding and opportunities to demonstrate projects using Durham Region infrastructure, Durham RTDS is a pervasive innovation ecosystem with all the right components to offer high-impact support to start-ups and SMEs to advance smart mobility solutions.

“The assets contained within Durham’s tight community of innovators is a startup’s treasure trove. And our connection to the rest of the OVIN network makes working with Durham RTDS an easy choice”, says Sherry Colbourne, CEO of Spark Centre.

In July of 2022, Durham RTDS launched an exciting challenge for innovators and businesses with technology-based products that facilitate safe and accessible transportation. Participants were challenged to offer technological solutions for making Durham Region intersections safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Successful challenge participants can pilot their solutions at high-risk Regional intersections utilizing Regional infrastructure.

Startups and SMEs from across the globe responded to Durham RTDS’ call for solutions, and their innovations did not disappoint. Who will be the top challenge participant? Stay tuned for Durham RTDS’ official announcement at https://durhamrtds.ca/ and on LinkedIn and Twitter!


Spark Centre
Helping innovative companies start, grow and succeed. Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre is one of eighteen not-for-profit Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) that form part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). The centre works to improve competitiveness and visibility of Durham Region and Northumberland County as a world-class innovation cluster. Spark Centre works with clients to develop individualized plans for success. We connect start-ups to business and research networks, learning tools, business coaching, mentorship, and access to funding and investment.

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