Recently, many media sources have picked up on this new superclusters initiative and addressed it with as much detail as possible, offering various views. A common line running through all of them is that no one seems to have a clear grasp of who this funding targets and what is expected to be presented in the proposal. In this and subsequent blog, we will try to address these two.

Who this funding targets

Earlier this year, Canada was named the second best country in the world again and I know many Canadians would attest to that. Yet, our overall innovation system is not perfect and I know many Canadians would attest to that as well. In fact, globally, Canada ranks only 15th on the innovation performance scale.

But do we need innovation?

Yes, we do.

Innovation is the route to economic growth. Maturity of industries leads to stability but also to stagnation. Thus, new ideas and knowledge transferred into new business ideas lead to new opportunities. At the same time, the opportunities that address market needs create new jobs. Finally, this is what we all want – more and better jobs, isn’t it?

While it is assumed that the superclusters will be formed in one of the highly innovative industries as set in Budget 2017, the funding is not restricted to these only. By the way, these industries are: agri-food, clean technology, digital technology, health/biosciences, clean resources, and infrastructure and transportation. The proposed idea needs to focus on the industry strength within a particular region. The strongest proposal may include collaborations between several sectors.

What is expected to be presented in the proposal?

If I could put it in 4 words, I would say “a strong value proposition”. This formulation must be very confusing due to its ambiguity. Yet, this is what the government is expecting: a strong value proposition that can ensure strong growth in a particular geographic area with the strong presence of an innovation hub.

Let me give you an example.

Several years ago, The Alberta government unveiled the Alberta Nanotechnology Strategy. The strategy was supported by a $130M commitment, from 2009-2014. The goal was to build a solid foundation for the next generation economy. With the cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry, it was time to pave the path towards industry less dependent on natural resources. This is how this strategy was born.

The strategy was overseen by a non-profit entity called nanoAlberta.

Under this initiative there were several strategic areas: raising next-generation highly qualified personnel, attracting world class talent, taking advantage of local infrastructure, attracting more venture capital to the region, and helping small and medium-sized companies grow.

Does this sound familiar?

Clusters vs. SUPERCLUSTERs

Can a regional initiative become a nation-wide strategy with global impact?

Canada has a number of industry clusters. But they need to become more economically active to become superclusters. The Government of Canada has not set up the specific metrics for what the superclusters should look like. One thing is clear, though: it is all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” and again “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

Perhaps, one of the best-known clusters is the Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor, representing more than 17% of GDP. In fact, many analysts bet on this region to become one of the superclusters. This could be both encouraging (strong foundation that will most likely lead to successful outcomes) and discouraging (speaking about not picking the winners…). Nevertheless, acting fast and a strong industry leadership are two factors that will determine the outcome at the end.

The Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor is not the only cluster we have.

In Alberta, there is a strong oil and gas industry. This could potentially be an opportunity for a fast-growing clean resources cluster.

In Halifax, a clean tech cluster can be propelled to a new level with the local advancements in ocean technologies and resource proximity.

Do you have ideas about what could be the next supercluster(s)? Share your ideas with us!

In the second part I will talk more about the specifics of a strong proposal. Stay tuned.

ConnexFund specializes in grants and funding for innovative companies and start-ups with a focus on technology and manufacturing. Many Canadian businesses are aware that there is some free money available for them. But not so many know where to find it, how to access it and how to prepare a grant application that is successful. And this is exactly what ConnexFund does!