Is Ottawa’s ‘supercluster’ funding initiative a superboondoggle in the making? – by Sean Silcoff (Globe and Mail – March 17, 2018)

On the morning of Feb. 15, federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains strode to the stage at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa with his jacket off, sleeves rolled up. The room was full of CEOs and entrepreneurs, academics and reporters, all waiting to hear who was about to win the federal lottery.

Mr. Bains was there to announce the five groups chosen to share the spoils of one of his government’s signature economic initiatives: the $950-million supercluster program. First, though, he had some explaining to do. “This comes up time and time again: What is a supercluster?” he said.

“I know it’s a jargony term,” he acknowledged, before offering a quick explanation: “It’s a made-in-Canada Silicon Valley that will create tens of thousands of jobs.”

Throwing around phrases such as “made-in-Canada Silicon Valley” is bound to raise questions. So is calling any government economic plan “super” – particularly when Ottawa’s strategy is simply to create what economists have called ” clusters” since Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter coined the term almost 30 years ago to describe “geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field” that drive productivity, innovation and the creation of new business.

But the hyped-up name signals the program is the star of the government’s plan to meaningfully boost Canada’s innovative capacity by orchestrating a high-level reshaping of the economy.

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