Liberals narrow list of contenders for 'supercluster' innovation hubs to 9

The Liberal government has whittled down the list of contenders bidding to be one of five groups approved under a $950-million "supercluster" initiative, a key part of its innovation agenda.

Government received 50 proposals from more than 1,000 firms and 350 participants

Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains says the $950 million behind the 'Innovation Superclusters Initiative' will 'create more middle-class jobs and more opportunities for Canadian businesses to grow into globally successful brands.' (The Canadian Press)

The Liberal government has whittled down the list of contenders eligible for a piece of its $950-million "supercluster" program, an initiative to foster innovation and create jobs in five specialized hubs across the country. 

The nine finalists on the government's short list include partnerships in ocean and digital technologies, artificial intelligence, transportation, manufacturing, mining, agri-food and infrastructure.

The government defines superclusters as collaborations between companies and universities, colleges or not-for-profit organizations "to turn ideas into solutions that can be brought to market."

Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains likened the model to California's Silicon Valley, a region defined by its software and computer industry.

"Superclusters are job-creating regions with strong economies, like Silicon Valley, and our government intends to create five of them in Canada," Bains said in a release.

The federal government announced its 'supercluster' shortlist today

6 years ago
Duration 7:48
Minister of Innovation Navdeep Bains discusses the nine finalists competing for a piece of the $950 million in allocated funding

After receiving 50 proposals, involving more than 1,000 firms and 350 participants, the government said it has created a shortlist of nine pitches from across the country. Up to five consortiums will be eligible for a piece of the $950-million fund, which will be spent over five years.

Bains has said he hopes to name successful applicants by the end of the government's fiscal year in March. 

Bains announced plans for the supercluster program earlier this year, following up on the government's innovation commitment in its 2017 budget.

The innovation minister will be making stops in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, with help from cabinet colleague Ralph Goodale in Saskatchewan, to unveil the finalists, but a list of the top contenders was obtained by Radio-Canada.

The short list includes:

  • From the Atlantic region: an oceans supercluster to invest in digital ocean technologies for industries such as aquaculture, the fishery, offshore oil and gas, and clean energy. Proponents include Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador,  Emera Inc., Clearwater and Dalhousie University.
  • From Quebec: an artificial intelligence supercluster to bolster Canadian leadership in AI and data science. Proponents are led by Optel Group and include more than other 80 firms, including AgroPur, Aldo and Polytechnique de Montreal.
  • A mobility supercluster focused on innovation and commercialization in the aerospace, ground transportation and advanced manufacturing. Proponents include CAE Inc., Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp. and Polytechnique Montreal.
  • From Ontario: a supercluster looking at transforming Canada's mining sector and focusing on clean resources, clean technology and responsible sourcing of metals. Proponents include Canada Mining Innovation Council, Barrick Gold Corp. and the University of British Columbia.
  • Another supercluster from Ontario promises to speed up Canada's manufacturing competitiveness. Proponents include Communitech Corp. and MaRS Discovery District, Maple Leaf Foods and the University of Waterloo.
  • From the Prairies: A protein supercluster to capture the export market opportunity for safe, nutritious plant-based food. Proponents include Ag-West Bio Inc., AGT Food and Ingredients and the University of Saskatchewan.
  • A supercluster to invest in technologies related to Canada's crop, livestock and agri-food processing sectors. Proponents: Agrium, Telus, and Olds College.
  • A infrastructure supercluster promising to change how Canada's infrastructure is designed, built and operated using advanced digital communications, cutting-edge tools and interconnected applications and services. Proponents include Stantec Consulting Ltd., PCL Construction Management Inc., Athabasca University and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
  • From British Columbia: a digital technology supercluster dedicated to making Canada better at inventing, developing and applying digital technologies to drive competitiveness in environment and resource technology, precision health and manufacturing. Proponents include Telus, Microsoft Canada Development Centre and six post-secondary institutions.