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

Canada's Digital Technology Supercluster

Last year, the Government of Canada launched the Innovation Superclusters Initiative (ISI) to support industry-led consortia that had “the greatest potential to energize the economy and become engines of growth.”

This month, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains named the British Columbia-based Digital Technology Supercluster as one of five consortia that would receive up to $950 million in funding over five years. UBC was a founding member of the supercluster, which includes multiple researchers from UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science and over 200 academic institutions, not-for-profits and private sector enterprises across the country,

Minister Bains, who made the announcement at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, noted that the ISI would create upwards of 50,000 “middle class jobs” and would boost Canada’s economy by $50 billion over the next 10 years. The founding members of the Digital Technology Supercluster also include Microsoft, Telus and D-Wave.

“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 Dr. 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 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. It will comprise both a state-of-the-art physical factory and a digital counterpart that may enable manufacturing solutions to be developed in a virtual environment before being applied in the real world. Intended to serve as both an industrial and educational facility, the Learning Factory has the potential to reduce significantly 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.”

The other consortia named by Minister Bains 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.

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