Federal government names winners of $950-million ‘supercluster’ funding – by Sean Silcoff (Globe and Mail – February 16, 2018)


The federal government unveiled the winners of its flagship innovation funding program on Thursday, committing $950-million to five industry consortiums drawn from hundreds of companies, research institutions and industry groups that don’t typically collaborate but that Ottawa hopes will create economic growth by combining forces.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said the goal was to create “a made-in-Canada Silicon Valley” that will add billions of dollars to the GDP and get businesses to invest heavily in research and development – and create 50,000 jobs.

The winners represented a broad cross-section of industry and academic players, which Mr. Bains said was the government’s intent. “This was about seeing how the private sector can step up,” he said in an interview. “We wanted to see more collaboration … more ambition” on the part of Canadian industry.

There was one winning bid from each of the country’s main five regions, winnowed down from a list of 50 letters-of-intent submissions last summer: Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and British Columbia. Some notable regional powerhouse industries, including aerospace in Quebec and oil and gas in Alberta, were not represented among the winners.

An “ocean supercluster” co-led by energy company Emera Inc. and Clearwater Seafoods Inc., and also involving Irving Shipbuilding, Cisco Systems and the main universities in Atlantic Canada promised to use digital technologies to help develop Canada’s off-shore industries, which contribute less than 1 per cent of Canada’s GDP and should be doing far better, said Rob Orr, who manages an investment fund from Halifax on behalf of Walmart heiress Christy Walton and co-led the bid.

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