Beyond ‘the next Silicon Valley’: Why many kinds of economic superclusters matter – by Scott Stern and Richard Florizone (Globe and Mail – April 5, 2018)

Scott Stern is the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology at MIT, and co-founder of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program (MIT REAP). Richard Florizone is the President of Dalhousie University, which is a partner in Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, and chair of the Nova Scotia MIT REAP team.

Can Canada’s disparate regions be harnessed to be more than the sum of their parts? This is the defining question for Canada’s economy and the vision behind the federal government’s recently launched superclusters initiative.

Rather than a “superboondoggle,” Canada’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative lays the foundations for nurturing and extending the global leadership of this country’s regional economic strengths.

While the concept of clusters has been around for a while, too many regional development initiatives simply try – and very often fail – to be “the next Silicon Valley.” Rather than having all regions chasing after the same “next big thing,” research shows that clusters prosper by building on existing advantages.

Some of the most successful cases of cluster development, such as the Australian wine industry, have applied technology and innovation to a natural-resource advantage to strengthen their global competitiveness. Despite barely squeaking into the league tables two decades ago, Australia now ranks as the fourth-leading wine importer to Canada, outpacing even France based on volume.

In addition to boosting exports, strong clusters have been shown to lead to higher job growth, wages, innovation rates, entrepreneurship and even resilience against economic downturns.

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