Innovation Superclusters Initiative: Digital Technology 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. In addition, each Supercluster has a set of different programs, each with its own goals and criteria.  

If all of that seems complex, don’t worry, over the coming months, this series of articles will provide a map of the different programs in each Supercluster to help you find where your venture might fit. This month, we’ll be looking at the Digital Technology Supercluster.

Digital Technology Supercluster

Despite what its name might imply, the Digital Technology Supercluster members aren’t limited to traditional tech companies that make software or electronics. Alongside big firms like Microsoft and Telus are small tech companies, universities, pharma companies and even Lululemon.

The current areas of focus for the Supercluster are Capacity Building and Technology Leadership Programs, including Data Commons, Digital Twins and Precision Health, as well as COVID-19. (Follow the links to examples of current projects.)

Funding and Eligible Costs

  • There’s no real maximum level of funding for a project, but the Supercluster is looking to do 30-40 projects using its $153 million in total funding, including a few bigger projects depending on the potential economic and technological impact.

  • Eligible projects can ‘stack’ other government funding like the Industrial Research Assistance Program, but combined project funding from all levels of government must not exceed the total cost of the project. 

  • Eligible project costs include any that are incremental, reasonable and directly relate to project execution and achievement of the project objectives.

  • Project co-investment works on a reimbursement model. As part of the agreement with the Supercluster, partners report regularly on project milestones and provide invoices for costs based on a Master Project Agreement between all project consortium participants, including the Supercluster.

  • Projects typically range in duration from 12 to 36 months, but they must be completed by March 31, 2023, the end of the Supercluster Initiative.

  • The lead organization on a project must be a member of the Supercluster.

Digital Technology Supercluster: Capacity Building

The Capacity Building program aims to partner with employers, educators, learning and development technology companies and community organizations to build job ready, world-class talent and teams. Some unique criteria include:

  • A project consortium must consist of at least three organizations, including at least one  industry partner and one non-profit organization.

  • Projects must be “incremental to the regular business undertakings of the participating organizations.” 

  • Projects must “articulate how they will address the inclusion of underrepresented groups, with a focus on Indigenous Peoples and women.”

  The Capacity Building program co-invests in two types of projects: 

  • Exploratory Projects typically receive $50,000 to $500,000 in co-investment per project and last up to one year. These projects are about creating a proof of concept that may turn into a larger Supercluster project if they are successful and fit into one of the Strategic Initiatives.

  • Strategic Initiatives projects may receive co-investment in the range of $2 million to $4 million per project and take up to three years. These are large-scale projects with potential global impact.

Digital Technology Supercluster: Technology Leadership

The Technology Leadership component of the Supercluster has three streams:

  • Data Commons – New business insights through new platforms to collect, store and analyze data.

  • Digital Twins – Creating virtual replicas of production environments for real-time operations management, simulation, modelling and training.

  • Precision Health – Improving the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of disease through innovative digital technologies for better health and wellness for citizens.

Some unique criteria include:

  • There must be a minimum of three partners in a project consortium.

  • At least one of the consortium partners must be a small- or medium-sized enterprise

  • At least one partner must be a post-secondary institution.

  • Projects must be incremental to the regular business undertakings of the participating organizations.

Key Documents

Once you get to the proposal writing stage, there’s a unique program guide for both the Capacity Building Program and the Technology Leadership Program that includes important evaluation criteria. 

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