More players join B.C.’s supercluster bid as Ottawa draws closer to final decision

B.C. supercluster pegs potential economic impact at additional 50,000 jobs, $15-billion boost to GDP

UrtheCast CEO Wade Larson with a satellite video shot with his company's cameras. His firm is part of the B.C.-based consortium vying for Ottawa's $950-million supercluster program | Photo: Chung Chow 

A B.C.-based consortium bidding for the federal government’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative is expanding its Canadian footprint ahead of Ottawa’s final decision in the coming months.

The West Coast consortium known as Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster announced Tuesday (January 9) that Canfor (TSX: CFP), GE Digital, the Terry Fox Research Institute and Shoppers Drug Mart, among others, have joined the bid since the B.C. group was shortlisted last fall.

The original application featured 60 participants, which has since grown to 260 organizations.

Founding members include Telus Corp. (TSX: T), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), UrtheCast (TSX: UR), D-Wave and Finger Food Studios, as well as six post-secondary institutions.

The federal government’s $950-million supercluster strategy is aimed at creating public-private partnerships in regions with extensive business activity that would allow for collaboration in innovation between different companies and post-secondary institutions.

The goal of B.C.’s bid is to create a supercluster focused on digital technologies capable of transforming traditional industries such as natural resources, transportation and manufacturing, as well as advancing innovations in health technologies, telecommunications, and the creative and digital economy.

Nine bids from across Canada were shortlisted in October and the federal government could choose as many as five superclusters to share nearly $1 billion in funding.

In an executive summary released in November, Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster estimated participants could invest $1.4 billion to fund 100 collaborations involving 1,000 organizations over a 10-year period.

The subsequent economic impact would boost the GDP by $15 billion and create 50,000 jobs for Canadians.

Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said in October the government expects to decide on the winning bids before the government’s fiscal year ends in March.