Canada Unveils the Five Winning Superclusters That Will Push Tech Sector into the Future

After a long wait and several cutting-edge proposals, the federal government has announced the five winning superclusters that will take home part of the $950 million that comes from the supercluster initiative.

The overall reasoning behind the supercluster initiative is to create upwards of 50,000 new jobs and add close to $50 billion into Canada’s economy over the next decade.

Altogether, partners have already committed over $700 million towards the supercluster initiative.

“Today we are investing in five superclusters so that tomorrow we will be more than 50,000 jobs richer and benefit from an even stronger economy—an innovation economy,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “With the Superclusters Initiative, we bet on Canadians. We looked at what we did well across our great nation, and we asked industry, academia and NGOs how we could do it better. The response was impressive and the ideas were remarkable.”

The program was first unveiled last year when the government called on small and medium businesses and enterprises along with non-profits and educational institutions to come together and work to innovate in several different sectors.

Together, the selected superclusters represent more than 450 businesses, 60 post-secondary institutions and 180 other participants in sectors covering 78 per cent of Canada’s economy. The five superclusters chosen are:

  • The Ocean Supercluster (based in Atlantic Canada) will use innovation to improve competitiveness in Canada’s ocean-based industries, including fisheries, oil and gas, and clean energy;
  • The SCALE.AI Supercluster (based in Quebec) will make Canada a world leading exporter by building intelligent supply chains through artificial intelligence and robotics;
  • The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster (based in Ontario) will connect Canada’s technology strengths to our manufacturing industry to make us a world manufacturing leader in the economy of tomorrow;
  • The Protein Industries Supercluster (based in the Prairies) will make Canada a leading source for plant proteins and help feed the world;
  • The Digital Technology Supercluster (based in British Columbia) will use big data and digital technologies to unlock new potential in important sectors like healthcare, forestry, and manufacturing.

“It is an exciting and historic time for innovation in Canada,” said Bill Tam, co-chair of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster consortium. “The Digital Technology Supercluster is a generational opportunity—one that holds significant promise for companies in BC and across Canada. Now the important work begins. As a collective, we’ll apply data and use technology in new ways, such as mixed reality, which can digitally transform companies, solve industry problems and advance economic opportunities throughout BC, Canada and the world.”

Back in October, several superclusters were shortlisted. The ones that did not make the cut include the Prairies’ smart agri-food and resilient infrastructure cluster, Quebec’s mobility systems cluster, and Ontario’s cleantech supercluster.

Some critics are reacting to the selected superclusters and how they do not accurately reflect current fields in innovation or Canada’s real strengths—most glaringly, there is no fintech supercluster, and there is no supercluster dedicated to blockchain or cryptocurrency. Still, it is good to see AI included as one of the superclusters, considering all the work Canada has put into the scene and how Toronto and Montreal have become leaders in the scene. The SCALE.AI supercluster will allow Canada to strengthen their leadership in the space.

“SCALE.AI is a fantastic vehicle to rally firms of all sizes, world-leading academic institutions such as IVADO (Montreal) and the University of Waterloo, and the broader ecosystem around a shared and disruptive strategy,” says Tristan Mallet, principal at The Boston Consulting Group in Montreal and seconded to SCALE.AI as its interim CEO.

“We want to bolster the competitive advantages of our industry leaders in retail, manufacturing, and logistics and transportation; strengthen Canada’s leadership in applied AI; and ultimately bring sustained economic impact to the country.”

In addition to representing various tech sectors, there is a deliberate attempt to make sure women and under-represented groups are put in places of leadership and recognition to ensure they will succeed in skilled jobs within these innovative industries.