A business consortium proposing to invest in digital ocean technologies was named Tuesday as the first of nine so-called superclusters vying for a piece of a $950-million federal innovation fund.
Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced in Halifax that the Ocean Supercluster was the winning applicant for the Atlantic region, describing it as an industry consortium that would expand digital technologies in aquaculture, fisheries, offshore oil and gas, and clean energy.
Up to five will be selected as the tech hubs as part of Ottawa’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative, which is aimed at fostering public-private partnerships in industries across the country.
“If selected as one of Canada’s five superclusters, the Ocean Supercluster would energize Canada’s ocean economy by investing in digital ocean technologies that will increase Canada’s competitiveness and create middle-class jobs for this generation and the next,” Bains said in a statement.
“Superclusters are job-creating regions with strong economies, like Silicon Valley, and our government intends to create five of them in Canada.”
A spokesman for Bains said the ocean proposal focused on maximizing “the economic potential and sustainable development of Canada’s ocean economy,” but didn’t offer specifics on what that involved. The lead proponents include Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador, along with more than 25 firms, including Emera Inc., Clearwater, Aspin Kemp and Associates, radient360 and Dalhousie University.
The Halifax announcement was the first in a cross-country tour that will reveal the nine shortlisted bids, following the submission of more than 50 proposals involving over 1,000 firms and 350 participants.
Superclusters are defined as areas of business activity often involving collaborations between companies and universities, colleges or not-for-profit organizations to develop ideas that can be taken to market.
“Through the Superclusters Initiative, we’ve started conversations and created solid partnerships between government, the private sector, academia and communities,” Bains said.
The contest, a cornerstone of Ottawa’s so-called innovation agenda, aims to lift the economy, promote research and create high-quality jobs. Bains has said he’s looking for ambitious bids that also feature intellectual property strategies designed to keep benefits for Canada.
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To qualify, supercluster bids must show private-sector investment commitments of at least a dollar for every government dollar requested.
Each submission will be evaluated on criteria such as job creation, how likely the new jobs will avoid becoming automated in the future and the proposal’s overall impact on the economy.
The winners will be announced by early 2018.