Federal Government Awards Innovation Supercluster Funding

Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, has announced the winners of the $950 million Innovation Supercluster Initiative (ISI) – part of the government’s innovation agenda. The winning superclusters come from across the country and represent key sectors the government made a priority in their Unleashing the Growth Potential of Key Sectors report a year ago.

The ISI has been a key component of the government’s innovation commitments to date.  This announcement is the culmination of two years of program development and nearly nine months of application assessment over two rounds. The ISI funding recipients include:

Use advanced datasets and applications of augmented reality, cloud computing and machine learning to improve service delivery in the natural resources, precision health and manufacturing sectors.

Uses plant genomics and novel processing technology to increase the value of key Canadian crops, plant-based meat alternatives, and new food products.

Will build next-generation manufacturing capabilities, incorporating technologies like advanced robotics and 3D printing.

Will bring various sectors together to build intelligent supply chains through artificial intelligence and robotics.

Will harness emerging technologies to strengthen Canada’s ocean industries.

Potential Economic Impact

These successful superclusters, chosen by the Minister, are based on applications that the government believes will deliver the strongest value for Canada.  Their total combined impact is estimated at $53.5 billion in GDP and approximately 50,500 jobs over ten years.

Moving Innovation Forward

Commercializing new technology in Canada has historically been a challenge.  The federal government traditionally funds the research and development stage, whereas venture capital steps into scale.  This creates a funding gap for companies looking to prove new technology in real-world settings and commercialization. These superclusters create a supply chain for Canadian technology to be more easily pulled from the lab, commercialized, and scaled – creating new Canadian companies and jobs across the country, in many different industries.  The government intends that these regional superclusters will transform Canada’s innovation ecosystem and accelerate job-creation.  By focusing on sectors where Canada already plays a global leadership role, the government hopes to see an even faster return on investment.

Adding Private Sector Investment

While $950 million is a large amount of money, the government is hoping that this seed funding will be matched or exceeded by the private sector. Time will tell if that happens. The government’s hope is that increased private investment over the next five years and beyond would create the conditions for the superclusters to become self-sustaining.

The government’s goal is to accelerate innovation in Canada and it has clearly picked its five priority sectors – these superclusters provide a roadmap for future government investment. Innovators seeking government funding will need to demonstrate how their technology will apply to one or more of these areas in order to qualify for federal funding.  Additionally, organizations that are looking to advance technology specifically in these sectors will be encouraged to approach the superclusters for support.  The government-industry division of responsibility split will become clearer; the government will fund pre-commercialization and the supercluster will fund commercialization and beyond.

The government has made its initial investment and is expecting the industry to take it from here.