In 2018, Canada’s five ‘Superclusters’ were announced, with a five-year government investment of $950 million, to be matched by private sector investment.
These clusters were conceived as areas of targeted business activity comprised of large and small companies, non-profits, academic institutions, and accelerators that work collaboratively to boost innovation and growth in a specific sector.
The five Superclusters are:
- Digital Technology (British Columbia);
- Protein Industries Canada (Prairies);
- Next Generation Manufacturing (Ontario);
- Scale Artificial Intelligence (Quebec);
- Ocean (Atlantic Canada).
The individual performance and challenges of the Superclusters have varied. Overall, they have fostered new partnerships, attracted industry investment, and supported a wide array of projects, including some related to Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Digital Technology Supercluster’s ‘COVID Cloud’ project, for example, is providing real-time DNA data to help governments and scientists make decisions about public health and vaccine efforts. In the agricultural sector, the Protein Industries Canada Supercluster is supporting a partnership that is developing AI-driven drone technology to detect pests and target spraying, which could lead to an estimated 95% reduction in pesticide use and considerable savings for farmers.
As of January, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) reports that across the five superclusters, $510 million in government funding has leveraged industry investments for a total of more than $1.2 billion.
Former Deputy Minister of ISED, John Knubley (the minister responsible for the creation and launch of the Superclusters), argues in his analysis that Superclusters’ success should be evaluated on a longer time horizon commensurate with the scale of their ambition.
This report offers a timely reflection on how each Supercluster has evolved and progressed, as well as the challenges encountered and lessons learned, where they might go next, and what role they could play in Canada’s ‘build back better’ agenda after COVID-19.
Read the full report below.