APSC to participate in $950 million federal “innovation supercluster” initiative

Canada's Digital Technology Supercluster

Last year, the Government of Canada launched a new Innovation Superclusters Initiative (ISI) under which it would invest up to $950 million over five years in industry-led consortia “with the greatest potential to energize the economy and become engines of growth.”


This month, a British Columbia-based Digital Technology Supercluster that includes multiple researchers from UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science, as well as over 200 academic institutions, not-for-profits and private sector enterprises across the country, was named one of five consortia that would receive the federal funding. UBC was a founding member of the supercluster, along with Microsoft, Telus, D-Wave and others.


“We’re grateful to the Government of Canada and all of UBC’s consortium partners for their support and their commitment to developing innovative and beneficial new digital technologies,” said James Olson, the Dean of the UBC Faculty of Applied Science. “These collaborations will create unique opportunities for students and researchers to help make major positive real-world impacts in vital fields like advanced manufacturing and personalized medicine.”


The private sector, required to match the government’s contribution, has committed more than $500 million to the supercluster, which aims to advance Canada’s digital economy through big data-based innovations in three main sectors: precision health, natural resources and manufacturing.


One of the first projects to be pursued by the supercluster is the UBC-based Learning Factory, which will consist of not only a state-of-the-art physical factory, but also a digital counterpart that, informed by the physical data, may enable manufacturing solutions to be developed in a virtual environment before they are applied in the non-virtual world. Intended to serve as both an industrial and educational facility, the Learning Factory has the potential to significantly reduce the risk, time and costs associated with existing technology development processes in the manufacturing industry.   


“This initiative has already fostered unprecedented collaboration throughout the BC technology community and indeed across sectors and between provinces—collaboration that likely would not have occurred otherwise,” wrote UBC President Santa Ono in a recent blog post. “I am truly excited about opportunities to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones that will benefit BC and Canada.”


In addition to the Digital Technology Supercluster, the other selected consortia are the Quebec-based AI-powered supply chain supercluster, the Ontario-based advanced manufacturing supercluster, the Atlantic Canada-based ocean supercluster and the Prairies-based protein industries supercluster.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced the successful supercluster proposals at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. He stated that the initiative would create upwards of 50,000 “middle class jobs” and would boost Canada’s economy by $50 billion over the next 10 years.