Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster

Intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and robotics are reshaping the ways that businesses collaborate, compete, and produce.

Over the past 20 years, Canada’s contributions in such areas have been strong. In particular, the city of Vancouver, BC has become one of the top startup ecosystems in the world. Tech companies in Vancouver possess a combination of technological capabilities and connections to key markets, including Silicon Valley, Asia, and the Cascadia Innovation Corridor (Vancouver, BC; Seattle, WA; and Portland, OR).

Built upon the strength of the BC tech ecosystem, the Digital Technology Supercluster provides Canadian government grants and other supports for business-led R&D projects that focus on transformational digital technologies.

The Canadian federal government has committed to providing up to $153M to support the Digital Technology Supercluster.

The Digital Technology Supercluster is one of Canada’s five Innovation Superclusters, initiatives financed by the Government of Canada that aim to foster strong connections between stakeholders in Canada’s most promising clusters.

Digital Technology Supercluster: Technology Leadership Programs

The Supercluster provides co-investment in projects that support the development of transformative digital innovations through collaborative research. Project teams aim to solve industrial challenges, pursue market opportunities, and raise Canada’s global reputation as a leader in technological innovation.

Technology Leadership Programs (i.e. project categories) are as follows:

  • Data Commons program, which drives development of new digital solutions by aggregating data resources into shared platforms for exploration, machine learning, and application development.
  • Digital Twins program, where project teams work to create new digital technologies that deliver real-time, virtual production environments for modelling and simulation, operations management, and training.
  • Precision Health program, which supports projects that improve disease prevention, early diagnosis, and personalized treatment options through data-driven advances that take into account genomics, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

Amount

The Digital Technology Supercluster will co-invest $0.75 for every $1 invested by partner organizations in specific projects, up to between $0.5M to $13M (amounts may change for different intakes). The Supercluster encourages organizations to also seek Canadian government funding from other sources (e.g. the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program).

Eligibility

Project teams must include at least three project partners, including one small or medium-sized enterprise and one post-secondary institution. The lead applicant must be a member of the supercluster.

Projects

Projects should be multi-year and deliver benefits to multiple organizations.

Projects will be assessed based on: the qualifications of the project team; the commercial impact of the project (are there potential customers for the technology?); the innovation factor (how novel is the proposed tech?); and ecosystem impacts (how will the proposed IT benefit others in the consortium and in the wider supercluster community?)

Process

Projects will follow the process below:

  1. Ideation: Organizations network with each other and/or attend the Supercluster’s ideation workshops.
  2. Expression of Interest: Organizations focus on one project idea and form project teams to submit an EOI.
  3. Full Project Proposal: Project teams with high-potential projects are invited by the Digital Technology Supercluster to submit a full project proposal.
  4. Investment Decision: Projects are awarded co-investment funding.

Calls for EOIs have occurred periodically. It is unknown if additional intakes will occur.

BC Tech & the Digital Technology Supercluster: Capacity Building Program

The Capacity Building Program complements the Technology Leadership Programs. It invests in areas where there is a clear need or opportunity, with the following objectives:

  • Develop a diverse pool of digital talent and improve the participation of Indigenous people, underrepresented groups, and women
  • Scale up Canadian SMEs through resources for growth, supply chain development, and global market access

Amount

For the pilot round of the Capacity Building Program, the Supercluster’s co-investment covered up to 75% of eligible costs to a maximum of $500K.

Eligibility

All applicants must be members or associates of the Digital Technology Supercluster by the time of the deadline for the full project proposal. There must be at least three project partners, one of whom is industry.

Projects

Projects should be 6-24 months in length and should focus on new, incremental activities. The Supercluster strongly encourages projects that build and expand connections beyond Supercluster participants and that use existing capabilities, talent, and infrastructure.

Project Proposals are assessed on their merit, capabilities of the project team, potential benefits and impacts, and the financial and management plans.

Process

Steps in the process include submission of an Expression of Interest, submission of a Full Project Proposal (by invitation only), and a review and approval of projects.

Calls for EOIs have occurred periodically. It is unknown if additional intakes will occur.

Canadian Government Funding: Awarded Digital Technology Supercluster Projects

The first seven projects that have been announced represent a Digital Technology Supercluster co-investment of $15M. Some of these projects are:

  • Dermatology Point-of-Care Intelligent Network: This project will develop new technology to support early detection of skin cancer, using AI-powered medical imaging that incorporates dermatology and pathology data.
  • Predictive Analytics for Manufacturing Processes: Quantum computing and machine learning will analyze chemical, temperature, and other data in metal finishing manufacturing for complex aircraft parts, supporting an optimized manufacturing process.
  • Forest Machine Connectivity: This project will use a network of “smart” devices to collect and analyze information essential to contractors, machine operators, and managers in the timber harvesting supply chain, increasing the productivity and competitiveness of Canada’s wood products manufacturing.
  • Learning Factory: This project will provide a proof-of-concept to develop a digital twin of the manufacturing process for aerospace components, in order to allow for hands-on learning and research to drive continuous improvements.

The Digital Technology Supercluster’s goal is to invest in over 35 projects and platforms and attract over $200M in investments from industry by 2023.

One of the easiest ways to stay up-to-date with news regarding all of Canada’s Superclusters is to register for our Small Business Funding Newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Monday.

Mentor Works does not provide consulting or writing services for this program. 

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Sunnie holds a PhD in English from Dalhousie University, and has published her writing in several academic journals, as well as in magazines, newspapers, and blogs. She combines years of experience as a professor in English with practical experience in the private sector as a trainer in writing and analytical thinking.

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