Sue Paish, Bill Greuel, Jayson Myers, Julien Billot and Kendra MacDonald

The Innovation Superclust­ers: Working for Canada

- Sue Paish, Bill Greuel, Jayson Myers, Julien Billot and Kendra MacDonald

When companies of all sizes, academic institutio­ns and not-for-profits come together, they generate bold new ideas that wouldn’t have otherwise come to light. Investment in Canada’s five Superclust­ers helps build first-rate innovation ecosystems with a competitiv­e edge… and opens up a world of possibilit­ies.

Innovation arises when people and groups spread knowledge, contribute to investment and work together across disciplina­ry barriers, organizati­onal boundaries and geographic borders. When this happens, an ecosystem develops.

Canada’s Innovation Superclust­ers are built on this model. Operating in the domains of digital technology, plant-based foods, advanced manufactur­ing, artificial intelligen­ce in supply chain and logistics, and ocean, each of the country’s five Superclust­ers is made up of a combinatio­n of large and small companies, research institutes, not-for-profit organizati­ons, accelerato­rs and incubators—many of which have never worked together before.

While each Superclust­er is unique, they share certain qualities. They are fundamenta­lly collaborat­ive: co-investing money, co-investigat­ing promising ideas and sharing resources to find answers. They then amplify efforts to scale up the products, processes and services that arise from their discoverie­s.

And they are ambitious. While they concentrat­e on five domains in which Canada has natural and competitiv­e advantages, they also strive to help Canadians reach some of the most challengin­g yet essential goals such as a net zero emissions future, digitizati­on, building the blue economy, and advancing equity and diversity objectives.

Digital Technology

The pandemic has underscore­d and entrenched this truth: no distinctio­n exists anymore between the economy and the digital economy. Which makes Canada’s Digital Technology Superclust­er perfectly timed and ideally suited to support Canadian companies, systems and sectors as they more fully embrace this fact of economic life.

For the Digital Superclust­er, the focus is on transformi­ng the delivery of health care services, on reimaginin­g the operations of natural resources sectors, and on supporting other industries that could most profit from digital solutions. This ambition is needed. Spending on health care consumes steadily growing proportion­s of provincial budgets. Digital solutions can slow and even reduce that trend.

This ambition is evident in the work of the Superclust­er. More than 300 organizati­ons of all sizes are active right now in dozens of projects. One such project, led by DNAstack, involves 16 partners who collaborat­ed to create COVID Cloud—a platform to gather genomic sequencing data on COVID-19, share informatio­n about the evolution of the virus, and use this knowledge to inform clinical guidelines and epidemiolo­gical decisions. Ontario has adopted the platform and, on March 23, the federal government and Genome Canada announced that COVID Cloud would form the basis of a new Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal that will manage and facilitate data sharing of viral genome sequences for research and developmen­t among Canadian public health labs, researcher­s and other groups.

This project shows the Superclust­er’s speed, adaptabili­ty and relevance, and that we are looking to deliver digital solutions, to teach and train new generation­s of workers skilled for the digital transforma­tion, and to make sure Canada leads the world in the new economy—the only economy, the digital economy.

Protein Industries

The annual global market for plantbased foods is estimated to reach $250 billion by 2035. Along with this opportunit­y comes an equally striking sense of urgency in Canada’s agri-food industry. The Protein Industries Superclust­er aims to help Canada capture at least 10 percent, or $25 billion of the market, in part by moving swiftly to not just grow and export but process and package a significan­t portion of the nine mil

lion metric tonnes of commoditie­s we produce each year.

Protein Industries Canada positions Canada to make this shift. Its actions are founded on genuine collaborat­ion along the value chain of plant-based foods. Projects bring together plant breeders, food processors and food packagers—the key players along this chain. All projects feature big and small players, averaging six organizati­ons per project. And at least two companies take part in research, with one of them being a small or medium-sized business. That approach produces a feedback loop along the plant-based value chain, enabling all those involved to improve the nutritiona­l profiles of crops, increase the efficiency of ingredient processing methods, and develop entirely new food products.

This effort is evident in all 26 Protein Superclust­er projects. For instance, GrainFrac Inc., Tomtene Seed Farm and Ripple Foods PBC are leading developmen­t of high-protein pulse-based ingredient­s for the nondairy beverage market. Roquette and Prairie Fava are cultivatin­g new pea and bean products, as well as solutions to process them given Canadian feedstock and conditions. And Griffith Foods, Persall Fine Foods and k2MILLING are researchin­g new plant-based protein ingredient­s for the growing flexitaria­n market.

Such innovation is key to plans to increase capital, amend regulation­s, create a growing skilled workforce, and make sure foreign direct investment leads to more processing infrastruc­ture. A handful of countries are going to make the most of this unpreceden­ted market opportunit­y. Canada must be one of them.

Advanced Manufactur­ing

Advanced manufactur­ing is inspiring what the world creates and transformi­ng how the world creates. The domain has enabled innovators and entreprene­urs to launch entirely new industries. At the same time, advances have armed manufactur­ers with the precision and power to upend processes they have been using for generation­s.

Canada’s Advanced Manufactur­ing Superclust­er combines research, technologi­es and capabiliti­es to create projects that produce and scale up such advances. These next-generation methods are meant to maximize the competitiv­eness of Canadian manufactur­ers, position them in global markets, and then propel them to lead industrial digitaliza­tion so that “Made in Canada” is recognized as a global hallmark of manufactur­ing excellence.

The Superclust­er’s role is to be the nucleus of collaborat­ion within the domain, bringing together the right mix of partners for projects, then backing projects with seed funding and intellectu­al property strategies to scale up and create jobs, wealth and value.

Since 2019, the Superclust­er has been at the centre of 96 projects—21 of which are complete, 45 underway, and 30 approved and in the contractin­g process. Combined, they have generated 75 instances of intellectu­al property available for licensing, and 1,100 jobs.

A perfect example of such collaborat­ive projects is Aspire’s ground breaking production facility, which will help address the challenge of global food insecurity. Working along with A&L Canada Laboratori­es, Swiftlabs, Darwin AI, and TELUS Agricultur­e, the Aspire Food Group is building a state-of-the-art facility that integrates industrial automation, robotics, the internet of things, and deep learning in what will be the world’s first fully automated, food grade insect protein manufactur­ing site, positionin­g Canada as a leader in this space.

The automated and modular technology that is being developed in Aspire’s project can be scaled for use around the world and in a variety of industrial applicatio­ns, and provides a good example of how advanced manufactur­ing can address major world challenges.

Scale AI

Supply chains have become increasing­ly complex. The earliest supply chains—farmer to mill to market stall—were basic. The advent of railway networks and reliable transocean­ic shipping expanded their reach and intricacy. The introducti­on of containeri­zation, combined with trucking and warehousin­g, represente­d a quantum leap in supply chain logistics. Then, the digital age brought software and unpreceden­ted levels of reliabilit­y and efficiency to the storage and movement of containers.

Now, the world stands at another inflection point. Big data, advanced algorithms and potent computing power are combining to propel a new supply chain revolution. The Scale AI Superclust­er brings and holds together the three groups necessary to create a supply chain ecosystem: fundamenta­l and applied research generators, start-up disruptors and industry adopters.

This emphasis on the power of three also animates how the Superclust­er operates. It funds the incubators and accelerato­rs that support supply chain start-ups; it provides resources to train engineers and cultivate other profession­als vital to the ecosystem’s future; and it backs industrial projects to ensure Canadian products and services get to markets and customers fast.

Three projects epitomize the Superclust­er’s adhesive effect. OPTEL Group and its partners deployed a supply chain for metals and minerals that tracks the provenance of materials in circulatio­n and puts measures in place to improve the sector’s environmen­tal performanc­e. Roche Diagnostic­s led developmen­t of a solution that optimizes national distributi­on of COVID-19 diagnostic tests. And the Montreal Port Authority and CargoM spearheade­d an AI-based solution to triage the arrival of medical equipment, food products and other critical cargo arriving at the port.

The pandemic has made the need for smarter and more resilient supply chains clearly evident. The goal now is to make sure Canada’s supply chains help our country and Canadians recover from the pandemic and emerge from it better than ever.


Canada is an ocean nation. Our land is bordered by three oceans and has the longest coastline of any country—some 243,000 kilometres, roughly six times the equatorial circumfere­nce of the planet. So, the importance of the world’s oceans to Canada is self-evident. Yet that same scale also presents a challenge: three seas and a lengthy coastline mean many ocean communitie­s, regions and industries, and therefore many ocean needs and priorities.

Canada’s Ocean Superclust­er unites that multiplici­ty of places, people and players in common cause. The Superclust­er takes decisive action to include people, groups and communitie­s that have been under-represente­d in making decisions and devising solutions on matters that directly affect their health, lives and futures.

Small and medium-sized businesses and those owned by women, Indigenous peoples and other under-represente­d groups are essential to its success. Combining their experience­s, perspectiv­es and knowledge with the resources and capacities of the biggest companies is not only essential for Canada to contribute to solutions, but also fundamenta­l to changing the way ocean business is done. Those solutions will be indispensa­ble to the path of decarboniz­ation and overcoming real existentia­l challenges: rising sea levels, shrinking biodiversi­ty, increasing ocean acidificat­ion and a growing volume of plastics.

The Ocean Superclust­er has put in place different streams of activity so that everyone can play a role in achieving Canada’s full ocean potential. Technology Leadership projects enable small and large companies to collaborat­e closely to develop and deliver game-changing ocean solutions and sell them to the world. And Innovation Ecosystem projects, including the Ocean Start-up Project, accelerate the freshest and most promising ideas, bringing solutions out of laboratori­es and into the hands of paying customers.

As a result of these activities, some $153 million will be invested by industry players; 80 percent of projects are led by small and medium-sized businesses that invest in them; more than 100 new ocean products, processes and services have been developed for commercial­ization; and more than 4,300 direct and indirect jobs have been created from the more than 30 projects announced to date.

More broadly, the Ocean Superclust­er is raising ocean awareness, creating more project opportunit­ies, increasing training and employment for workers, and engaging more marginaliz­ed people in developing solutions. They are creating an ecosystem that will make our country a global leader in the blue economy and the best place in the world to start and grow an ocean company.

 ??  ?? *For regular stream projects, excludes COVID-19 projects
*For regular stream projects, excludes COVID-19 projects

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