B.C.’s Po­ten­tial Game-Changer: The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter

Policy - - In This Issue - Bill Tam

Among the five in­no­va­tion su­per­clus­ters des­ig­nated by the Trudeau gov­ern­ment in Fe­bru­ary, ar­guably the most closely-watched choice was which dig­i­tal su­per­clus­ter would pre­vail. Big data is rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing how in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses com­mu­ni­cate, do busi­ness and live their lives. The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter will be lo­cated in Bri­tish Columbia, where it seems in­no­va­tion is in the air these days.

Canada’s pros­per­ity on the world stage de­pends on es­tab­lish­ing a sus­tain­able na­tional eco­nomic ad­van­tage. For the past decade, Canada has been amass­ing strengths in dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy that will un­der­write ben­e­fits to the country eco­nom­i­cally and so­cially for gen­er­a­tions.

The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort of more than 350 or­ga­ni­za­tions, all fo­cused on seiz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in Canada’s fast-grow­ing tech sec­tor. This is a bold en­deav­our, rooted in in­no­va­tion and driven by an ur­gent need to fa­cil­i­tate dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and com­pet­i­tive­ness across all in­dus­tries. By bring­ing to­gether the ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise of var­i­ous in­dus­tries and in­sti­tu­tions, lever­ag­ing data and pro­mot­ing the shar­ing of knowl­edge, the Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter will pro­pel Canada’s po­si­tion as a leader in forg­ing the world’s dig­i­tal eco­nomic fu­ture.

The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter will sup­port large-scale eco­nomic growth, gen­er­ate jobs and cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties. It will al­low start-ups and small and medium-sized busi­nesses the op­por­tu­nity to scale glob­ally, while ex­pand­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness of Canada’s largest com­pa­nies. If the prize re­source of the 20th cen­tury was oil, the prize re­source of the 21st is data. More data has been cre­ated in the past two years than in the en­tire his­tory of the hu­man race. Mov­ing for­ward, the global data in­ven­tory will quadru­ple by 2025 and world­wide rev­enues for big data and an­a­lyt­ics are ex­pected to ex­ceed $200 bil­lion in 2020.

Many of the most promis­ing de­vel­op­ments in dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy—such as vir­tual, mixed and aug­mented re­al­ity (VR/MR/AR), quan­tum com­put­ing, cloud com­put­ing and the In­ter­net of Things (IoT)—are ex­pected to wit­ness triple-digit mar­ket growth in the years ahead.

If the prize re­source of the 20th cen­tury was oil, the prize re­source of the 21st is data. More data has been cre­ated in the past two years than in the en­tire his­tory of the hu­man race.

Big data is rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing how in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses com­mu­ni­cate, do busi­ness and live their lives. In to­day’s data econ­omy, dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is vault­ing some busi­nesses to new heights. Those that do not seize the op­por­tu­nity risk be­com­ing ir­rel­e­vant. The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter sees the im­mense po­ten­tial of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and has been de­signed to cap­i­tal­ize on these im­por­tant trends.

Bri­tish Columbia is well-suited as the head­quar­ters for the Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter. Home to a vi­brant, di­verse and suc­cess­fully tech­nol­ogy-en­abled econ­omy, B.C. has the fastest-grow­ing tech­nol­ogy sec­tor in Canada. It leads the country in tech­nol­ogy sec­tor GDP growth and job cre­ation, and hosts Canada’s num­ber one start-up ecosys­tem, three of five Cana­dian bil­lion­dol­lar start-ups—or “uni­corns”—and two of the country’s top three uni­ver­si­ties in soft­ware de­vel­op­ment.

The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter is fo­cused on two dis­tinct ar­eas: ecosys­tem de­vel­op­ment and tech­nol­ogy lead­er­ship. Ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy must be sup­ported by a vi­brant, in­clu­sive and col­lab­o­ra­tive ecosys­tem. The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter

rec­og­nizes the need to en­hance labour force skills. This in­cludes par­tic­i­pa­tion by a broad range of peo­ple who re­flect our di­verse pop­u­la­tion. Ini­tia­tives that foster op­por­tu­ni­ties for Indige­nous peoples will be in­te­grated into su­per­clus­ter ac­tiv­i­ties. Other im­por­tant ar­eas of ecosys­tem de­vel­op­ment in­clude sup­port­ing the growth of in­no­va­tion ser­vices and in­creas­ing ac­cess to world mar­kets for Cana­dian com­pa­nies.

Tech­nol­ogy lead­er­ship pro­grams are col­lab­o­ra­tive projects that di­rectly en­hance the pro­duc­tiv­ity, per­for­mance and com­pet­i­tive­ness of mem­ber firms. Us­ing Ag­ile method­ol­ogy, projects will take place in six-month sprints, sup­ported by a rolling Ex­pres­sion of In­ter­est (EOI) process. Above all, projects will be guided by in­dus­try needs, led by su­per­clus­ter mem­bers and sup­ported by some of the best tech ex­per­tise in the world.

With the sup­port of sev­eral hundred pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pants, 25 of B.C.’s post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions, lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties and re­search in­sti­tutes, and fund­ing com­mit­ments ex­ceed­ing $500 mil­lion, the Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter has the mo­men­tum to be an eco­nomic game-changer. Found­ing mem­bers in­clude large cor­po­rate play­ers, small and mid-sized com­pa­nies and a con­sor­tium of six post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions—or­ga­ni­za­tions who to­gether can lead the de­vel­op­ment, adop­tion and suc­cess of new prod­ucts and tech­nolo­gies.

The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter’s open membership model en­ables any or­ga­ni­za­tion to join as an as­so­ciate mem­ber. This re­moves any bar­ri­ers pre­vent­ing SMEs from join­ing and en­cour­ages the rapid scale-up of a com­mu­nity of in­ter­est around data-driven in­no­va­tion. Membership pro­vides or­ga­ni­za­tions and their staff with the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore and par­tic­i­pate in col­lab­o­ra­tive de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in a safe, in­spir­ing place of in­no­va­tion.

The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter will be the cat­a­lyst for trans­for­ma­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion and the cen­tre for in­no­va­tion ini­tia­tives across Canada. It will build partnerships and link­ages. It will pool re­sources and data. It will be­come a clear­ing­house for tra­di­tional in­dus­tries, academia, and non-prof­its to col­lab­o­rate with the dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy sec­tor and en­cour­age the rapid scale up of a com­mu­nity of in­ter­est around data-driven in­no­va­tion.

The Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter’s Phase 1 pro­grams have been iden­ti­fied through con­sul­ta­tion with in­dus­try. A data stack of data vi­su­al­iza­tion, data anal­y­sis and data col­lec­tion was ap­plied to B.C.’s ma­jor in­dus­tries: nat­u­ral re­sources, pre­ci­sion health and in­dus­trial. A wide range of op­por­tu­ni­ties were ex­plored, lead­ing to the def­i­ni­tion of three pro­gram ar­eas with the most po­ten­tial: Pre­ci­sion Health, Dig­i­tal Twins and Data Com­mons.

The fol­low­ing ex­am­ples demon­strate how the Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter will con­trib­ute to sig­nif­i­cant ad­vance­ments across some of Canada’s lead­ing in­dus­tries:

• In Health­care, a se­cure, anony­mous Health and Ge­nomic Plat­form will build the systems re­quired to al­low med­i­cal spe­cial­ists to cre­ate cus­tom, lead­ing-edge can­cer treat­ments that are per­son­al­ized to the unique ge­netic makeup of each pa­tient, build­ing on Canada’s cur­rent lead­er­ship in this area.

• In the nat­u­ral re­sources sec­tor, an Earth Data Store will fa­cil­i­tate and im­prove data col­lec­tion, shar­ing and vi­su­al­iza­tion in the re­source sec­tor—en­hanc­ing how in­for­ma­tion about re­source projects is shared be­tween project pro­po­nents, Indige­nous Peoples, gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties. In the in­dus­trial man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, a Dig­i­tal Learn­ing Fac­tory will help fa­cil­i­tate the de­vel­op­ment of vir­tual en­vi­ron­ments that en­able de­sign, rapid ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and test­ing of cost-sav­ing ap­proaches to ad­dress the most sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges in mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing.

These ini­tia­tives are among the es­ti­mated 100 projects that will be made pos­si­ble by the Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter. Over the next 10 years, the su­per­clus­ter is pro­ject­ing over $1 bil­lion in in­vest­ments in col­lab­o­ra­tive projects, in­volv­ing more than 1,000 or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Sup­ported by a broad base of sup­port across in­dus­tries, guided by a solid plan and fo­cused on an area of tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity, the Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter is ready for take-off. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit dig­i­tal­su­per­clus­ter.ca.

Adobe­stock photo

With the sup­port of sev­eral hundred pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pants, 25 of B.C.’s post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions, lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties and re­search in­sti­tutes, and fund­ing com­mit­ments ex­ceed­ing $500 mil­lion, the Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Su­per­clus­ter has the mo­men­tum to be an eco­nomic gamechanger.

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