Canada’s $50-Million Challenge to Make Cities Smarter

The Canadian government is launching the country’s first Smart Cities Challenge, a community-level competition to design data-driven and connected technology solutions.

The nationwide challenge asks communities to submit proposals that leverage new innovations, big data and emerging technology to better the lives of the people in their city—whether that’s reimagining transportation and mobility or gamifying healthy living.

“This challenge—the first of its kind in Canada—will encourage communities to innovate and take risks to improve people’s lives,” said Amarjeet Sohi, the federal Minister of Infrastructure, in a statement.

The federal government said communities of all sizes can apply, and they’re looking for bold approaches to address community-determined priorities.

“Across the country, communities large and small are bursting with new ideas. The Smart Cities Challenge will help bring them to life, and find solutions that achieve real and positive outcomes for Canada’s middle class,” he added.

In the online application, provided examples of the technology-infused smart cities proposals included implementing an AI-enabled flood warning system, a digital platform that monitors space in homeless shelters in real-time, and an app built for aging residents’ transportation needs.

The government is also encouraging communities to tap private and not-for-profit sectors as well as the research community to identify a city’s needs and how technology could be harnessed as part of the solution.

The entire project is backed by $300 million from the federal government, an investment that includes funding the country’s top finalists with $250,000 to create more detailed proposals and business cases as well as the challenge’s grand prizes.

The winning city will receive $50 million to fuel the development and implementation of the tech-driven project. Two cities with less than half a million residents will each receive $10 million. A $5-million prize is reserved for Canada’s smaller communities that have under 30,000 residents.

Complete application guidelines are available on the new Impact Canada Challenge Platform, and communities will have until April 24, 2018 to apply. The challenge’s finalists—determined by an independent jury—will be announced next summer and the winners announced in spring 2019.

Infrastructure Canada is also working with Indigenous leaders, communities, and organizations to finalize a competition that’s specific to challenges in Indigenous communities. The Smart Cities Challenge is part of the Government of Canada’s Impact Canada Initiative.