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Innovation minister defends 'superclusters' following critical report

Last Updated Oct 28, 2020 at 1:29 pm MST

Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains arrives to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains is seeking to pump enthusiasm back into the government’s “supercluster” program following a report from the parliamentary spending watchdog that says the effort is falling short on its promise.

Bains says Canada’s superclusters, which fuse public and private money to promote innovation, are succeeding in commercializing ideas and creating middle-class jobs.

He says projects funded through the five supercluster sectors, which include artificial intelligence, manufacturing and agriculture, have generated 6,100 jobs across more than 220 projects.

But Bains is also stressing the program’s potential over a five-to-10-year timeline following a performance that has failed to to live up to expectations so far.

The parliamentary budget officer projected earlier this month that only about 4,000 jobs would be created by the $918-million endeavour, which he said is unlikely to meet the program’s spending and job growth goals.

The watchdog’s concerns come on top of criticism from the Council of Canadian Innovators, which argues the superclusters fail to retain intellectual property developed through public funding.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

The Canadian Press