EU-Canada Cluster Matchmaking event is a success!

Submitted by Caroline Guillet on 13 June 2019

The European Cluster Collaboration Platform organised a major Cluster Matchmaking Event in Toronto, Canada, between the 5th and 7th of June 2019. The event was supported by the European Commission, Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW), the Department of Industry of Canada and notably the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Department (ISED) responsible for the Superclusters Initiative.  The EU-Canada Cluster Matchmaking Event sought to support cluster cooperation for strategic business partnerships taking advantage of the provisions of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) signed between the European Union and Canada in October 2016. CETA entered into force in September 2017.

Eu-Canada group picture

The highlight of the event took place on 6th of June with the signing of an administrative arrangement between Canada and the EU to facilitate trans-Atlantic cluster collaboration.  The signature was witnessed by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises and the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Under the arrangement, cluster organisations and firms in the European Union will have more opportunities to form strategic business partnerships and linkages notably with Canada’s five innovation superclusters.

Eu-Canada Signature

The main EU delegation was composed of some 27 clusters along with some companies covering 16 European countries from the EU and countries participating in the COSME programme (Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Ukraine) along with several representatives of the five Canadian Superclusters (Protein Industries, Ocean Industries, Digital Technology, Advanced Manufacturing and SCALE.AI) and a dozen other Canadian clusters, chambers and business networks and local economic development agencies. A total of almost 100 attended the morning session of the event.

Previously, on the 5th of June, the event commenced with a visit to Communitech (Kitchener), a major ICT innovation hub supporting over 1400 companies based on a dynamic public-private partnership involving the local authorities but also many large corporations.  The visit was hosted by Avvey Peters, Chief Strategy Officer and her team.  The centre has developed a range of innovative support mechanisms aimed at supporting both start-ups and companies with the potential for scale up and delivers the largest open innovation corporate programme in the world.  Innovative characteristics of the regional ecosystem include the very flexible Intellectual Property rights system put in place by Waterloo University and the skilled personnel that have been attracted to the region thanks to the presence of major IT companies such as Blackberry.

The day concluded with a visit to the McMaster Innovation Park and included presentations from the Park’s animation team led by  Director Ty Shattuck and further insights into the ecosystem from leading clusters, research and innovation support actors including Jason Myers CEO (see photo below) of the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster and Philippe Dauphin CEO of the Canada Materials Research Centre.  During these and other presentations speakers highlighted the use of bilaterally funded programmes such as Eurostars and Eureka cluster programme that have helped fund EU-Canada collaborative projects.

After the signing of the Administrative Agreement on the 6th of June, that was hosted by Humber College, the focus of the agenda was on enhancing the knowledge and understanding of the business opportunities offered by the respective cluster led ecosystems.  Policy actors, Melissa Sutherland, Director, Innovation Superclusters Initiative, Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), Canadian Government and Slawomir Tokarski, Director for Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing, at DG GROW European Commission, provided an insight into the current policy initiatives that provide favourable framework conditions for cooperation to flourish.  Both highlighted the leading role that clusters could play in helping SMEs connect and put in place enduring business development actions.

A number of sessions were organised including presentations from the five Canadian SuperClusters and five examples of European Strategic Cluster Partnerships (ESCPs).  Highlights included a joint EU-Canada presentation of the strong collaboration that has already been initiated through the NF4 Food ESCP and Natural Food Products Canada.  ESCP AdPack² reported that they signed five MoU’s with Canadian counterparts during the course of the day! This was followed by five parallel thematic group discussions that sought to identify opportunities and challenges for pursuing cluster led EU-Canada cooperation.

The afternoon session opened with individual “pitch” presentations from all the cluster delegates and was followed by a full programme of C2C meetings. The matchmaking sessions allowed for fruitful exchanges between European and Canadian delegates and over 100 meetings were scheduled on the afternoon of the event between European and Canadian counterparts.  

The day concluded with a cocktail sponsored by ISED and Canadian partner MtechHub and an EU delegation debriefing that highlighted the high-level satisfaction of participants with the event.

On the 7th of June, the event was devoted to visiting some of Toronto’s leading innovation hubs and health related research facilities all located in the MaRS Discovery District  (Medical and Related Sciences).  This facility represents one of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs and is a cornerstone of the Toronto Region Human Health and Sciences Cluster.  The animation team comprises some 220 staff who are responsible for the 1,5 million sqft of offices and research facilities and have already supported 1,300 high growth ventures and is currently home to 150 companies, many from abroad. 

A visit to JLabs (a Johnson&Johnson health tech incubator and innovation centre) followed and then the delegation moved to the Centre for Commercialisation of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM). During the visit to the CCRM, President and CEO Michael May showcased the range of research activities that were being undertaken and the highlighted the need to complete the health company support offer through the creation of a dedicated business park to help companies stay in the region.  All three project initiatives highlighted the importance they attached to helping businesses attract and retain talent and skilled staff. Finally, the EU Delegation posed for the final team photo before continuing with individual project visits and meetings.

Further details:

Official News release

All meeting presentations will be made available  here

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Related Event
EU-Canada Cluster Matchmaking Event
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