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Canada’s $950M supercluster program gets ready for takeoff


By David Schwartz
Published: September 11th, 2018

Canada’s big bet on a supercluster program that will bring university research and industry together to jump-start the country’s innovation economy is nearing the starting line, with final government approval and initial funding imminent.

“I think we’re within weeks of getting this done,” said Frank Hart, board chair and interim CEO of the Protein Industries Supercluster.

In February, the Canadian government announced that it had selected five proposals to create innovation hubs across the country, each focusing on a different key economic sector. Each supercluster will partner universities with companies, who will work together to advance new technologies to the marketplace. The five superclusters will each receive a share of the $950 million that is being devoted to the program in an attempt to overcome what many observers say is a disconnect between the high quality of Canadian research and the relative lack of progress taking that research to commercialization.

According to Hart, once the funding arrives, the idea is that partner companies will chip in funds and work with universities to collectively tackle industry problems. “For us, success means getting these competitors to work together for the greater good of the country,” he said.

Sue Paish, CEO of the British Columbia Digital Technology Supercluster, expects to take initial pilot project research proposals to the supercluster board in late September, with projects launching in October.

Irene Sterian, chief technology officer for the Ontario Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster,

said one of the significant early efforts in her field will be to simply develop an “asset map” to get an idea of who can contribute to manufacturing supply chains. One potential roadblock to overcome, she added, is the expansive geography of the country, which makes the whole idea of “clusters” a bit of a misnomer. “I know lots of great ideas and people in Saskatoon, but physically, to work with them in Toronto is limiting,” she said. One way that could change is if the superclusters become a magnet for other companies who want to compete in the same sector, creating an ecosystem of skilled labor and synergies.

Source: Financial Post

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