Innovation Superclusters Initiative: Ocean Supercluster

Guide on Innovation Superclusters Initiative

Canada’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative is a program designed to bring together partners in industry, academia and the not-for-profit sector around project-based collaboration. The idea is that, by combining the strengths and capabilities of these different kinds of organizations and adding some government funding, Superclusters can help generate economic growth and technology leadership in Canada. 

Supercluster programs are open to companies of any size, and funding works through co-investment in projects that involve a consortium of partners from different organizations. ‘Co-investment’ simply means that the government matches the investment of a consortium of partners dollar-for-dollar, up to certain maximum levels, depending on the Supercluster.

To date, the program has supported more than 325 projects, including 1330+ partner organizations and over $565 million in government funding. By March 2023, ISED will invest up to $950 million in the program.

Each of the five Superclusters is an independent, not-for-profit entity focused on a particular industry sector with their own membership rules and guidelines for selecting and funding projects. The five Superclusters are Digital Technology, Protein Industries, Advanced Manufacturing, Scale AI and Ocean.  

This is the fourth in a series of articles mapping out the different programs in each supercluster to help you find where your venture might fit. This month, we’re looking at the Ocean Supercluster.

Canada's Ocean Supercluster

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) is an industry-led program that aims to foster cross-sectoral collaboration to create projects that digitize and optimize marine operations, maximize sustainable approaches to resources and increase safety in marine environments.

OSC co-investments typically support projects that range in size from $0.5M to $20M, with government funding covering up to 100% of eligible costs, but there is no minimum or maximum size. The program has allocated $290 million of its total $306 million budget (50/50 industry/government) with 56 approved projects. The majority of the funding will be invested into Technology Leadership Projects. Other programs in the Supercluster include the Ocean Leaders Impact program (deadline past), the Indigenous Career Pivot Project and the $1.4 million Ocean Startup Challenge program (deadline past).

Technology Leadership Projects

Technology Leadership Projects (TL projects) are collaborative projects where OSC members and the OSC co-invest to perform research and development, commercialization and capability-building activities that deliver business value and benefits to participating organizations, the innovation ecosystem, and Canada’s ocean economy. TL projects must fall into one of three themes: 

  • Ocean Sensing and Characterization — Collaborative R&D projects to develop improved, reliable and scalable technologies for short-term/long-range ocean ecosystems.

  • Operational Intelligence — Develop monitoring observatories with real-time data integration.

  • Data Analysis and Visualization — Develop and advance digital twin concepts for use across ocean industries, and develop intelligent, highly automated technology in harvesting.
Project and cost eligibility 

In addition to falling into one of the above themes, TL project participants must be OSC members, and the scope and definition of the projects must be determined by one or more industry members who intend to co-invest in the project. Other high-level project criteria include: 

  • A minimum of two industry members must co-invest in the project, with no one industry member contributing more than ⅔ of the total private sector contribution

  • At least one small-or medium-sized enterprise (500 employees or fewer) must be part of the project team

  • Project activities must take place in Canada

  • Project activities are incremental to the regular business undertaking of the partners in that the project is new or would not be undertaken at the same scope or scale without the co-investment provided by the Supercluster

As with other Supercluster programs, costs that are eligible for reimbursement only include those needed for the project specifically, such as:

  • Labour costs for existing or new employees who are working directly on the project (not including bonuses or benefits)

  • Capital equipment and facilities (but not new construction or the purchase of a building or land)

  • Materials and supplies

  • Costs for room or facility rentals dedicated to the project

  • Travel costs incurred exclusively for the project

  • Taxes, fines, depreciation, litigation fees, etc. are not eligible

Approval Criteria and Process

In order to generate economic growth for Canada, TL projects must have the potential to generate innovative technologies and IP, create high-potential commercial opportunities, and increase the competitiveness and productivity of Canadian companies.

OSC’s TL project development and selection process includes early brainstorming about project ideas, a preliminary application, a full proposal, evaluation, approval and execution. Each project proposal is also required to include a comprehensive project plan, as well as a rationale that demonstrates how the proposed project would create opportunities for members.

OSC program managers and intellectual property managers are available to help project teams at any point in the proposal development process. For a much more detailed set of selection criteria, check out the OSC Program Selection Guide.