Feds launch ‘supercluster’ competition

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is opening the competition for its $950-million “supercluster” program that aims to bring together industry and academia as a way to lift the innovation economy.

Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains announced the deadline details and qualifying criteria Wednesday for a five-year initiative central to the feds’ innovation program.

Bains said the goal of the plan is to have government bring together post-secondary institutions and businesses to help develop new technologies, boost growth and create jobs in different parts of the country.

“We really want to see strong economic benefits,” Bains said in an interview Wednesday.

“We want to be a meaningful partner, we want to promote collaboration and we’re willing to put money to really foster and unlock more investment in research and development to help companies quickly commercialize their ideas, to help Canadian companies really scale and grow up and compete globally.”

He said the first deadline to submit a letter of intent is July 21. Up to five bids from industry-led consortia will eventually be selected by the end of the fiscal year to receive a portion of the federal funding.

The government is expecting the public investment to be matched dollar-for-dollar by the winning partnerships.

Bains is looking for ambitious bids that also include intellectual property strategies designed to retain benefits for Canada.

Although not critical to the application process, Bains said the government is hoping the proposals land within sectors it identified in its March budget, which include advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital technology, health and bio-sciences, clean resources and infrastructure and transportation.

A plan to invest in clusters was first announced in the 2015 Liberal election platform. The government has added additional details to the initiative in each of its two budgets.

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