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Data centre technology startup investing in Stratford after USMCA deal reached

People drive cars down the street, in the city where autonomous vehicles are being researched, in Stratford. (Reuters)

After waiting on the sidelines for more than a year due to uncertainty surrounding NAFTA negotiations, a European technology startup has decided to open a data centre in Stratford, Ont.

ScutiX, a technology company that uses renewable energy to power its containerized data centres, said it plans on installing a data centre in Stratford, Ont. within the first six months of 2019. Stratford is home to a demonstration zone that is part of the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation network and includes a testing area that opened in November which allows researchers and companies to test autonomous vehicle technology.

Discussions between ScutiX and the city of Stratford slowed in recent months as contentious NAFTA negotiations appeared to reach a standstill, with some concerns raised that a new deal wouldn’t be reached at all.

But with a new agreement in place – now known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – ScutiX chief executive Henry Okereke said the company was able to move forward in bringing its data centre to Stratford.

“We were very happy to see things get resolved, which is why we made this announcement after it was done,” Okereke said in an interview.

“I think we would have found it challenging without a trade deal in place.”

City of Stratford mayor Dan Mathieson said the USMCA brought a level of relief for the city, which has seen more jobs tied to parts of the auto industry in recent years.

“We’re happy they decided … that Stratford is the place to make this investment,” he said.

“When I look at some of the things we’re doing around autonomous vehicles and testing, there are secondary sets of investments that are going to come as a result of it, things like higher-capacity computing centres that will allow us to be part of the auto industry, regardless of whether we’re producing cars or not.”

Okereke would not say how much the investment is worth. ScutiX and the City of Stratford are still discussing a contract for the renewable energy source that will power the centre.

While Okereke said the company is still working on developing its client base for the data centre, Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association (APMA) president Flavio Volpe said he is looking forward to having ScutiX be a partner with the Stratford demonstration zone, which is operated by the APMA.

“Autonomous and connected vehicles and their related networks are going to have to rely on an incredible amount of dispatch-able computing power,” Volpe said. “Having a player like them in the market, accessible to our designers and engineers, is a coup.”

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