About Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters

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What is a cluster

Clusters are areas of intense business activity made up of companies, academic institutions and not-for-profit organizations that boost innovation and growth in a particular industry. Silicon Valley is an example of well-known cluster, and there are many more around the world.

A cluster is a made-in-Canada approach, where clusters have been supercharged with nearly $2 billion in federal government funding, matched dollar-for-dollar by industry.

Each cluster is unique. But they are usually made up of:

  • large and small companies
  • researchers and academics
  • not-for-profit organizations
  • accelerators and incubators
illustration of five blocks of clusters: Entrepreneur, Academics, Capital, Government and Not-for-profit

How this program can help you

Clusters encourage industry leaders, small and medium-sized companies and post-secondary institutions to collaborate on large-scale projects, in order to speed up growth in some of Canada's most promising industries:

  • Digital technologies
  • Plant proteins
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Enhancing the use of artificial intelligence in supply chains
  • Oceans

As these industries grow and their ecosystems strengthen, they become global leaders, which boosts Canada's economy by creating jobs and attracting investments and talent to Canada.

Clusters help by:

  • Connecting hundreds of partners and collaborators to solve industry-level challenges that affect them all, such as developing strong supply chains or managing data
  • Attracting talent, research, capital and new companies by helping to establish Canada as a world-leader
  • Innovating in the global marketplace with new products and processes
  • Growing more productive industries, healthier ecosystems, more jobs and success for firms across industries
  • Empowering small and medium sized companies to grow faster, tap into expertise, find new markets and access Intellectual Property

Canada's clusters are also helping to build a skilled and diverse workforce by:

  • creating opportunities for women, racialized Canadians, Indigenous communities and other under-represented groups. For example:
    • Oceans has created dedicated opportunities for Indigenous peoples, providing meaningful work experience and exposure to more blue economy career options
  • committing to gender parity for all cluster Boards
  • offering workshops and formalized training in response to the industry's need for members to develop their talent, learn about topics or gain new skills. For example:
    • Scale AI is supporting research chairs in artificial intelligence, offering opportunities to upgrade members' skills, and have plans to train 12,500 pre-university students

Over the next 10 years, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) will be measuring the success of Canada's clusters. This monitoring will help to ensure that clusters reaches its goal of creating 50 thousand jobs and $50 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


How we're working with industry

The clusters program is led by ISED. But each cluster is an independent, not-for-profit entity with its own industry-led board of directors, responsible for:

  • managing operations and activities
  • outlining strategic priorities
  • selecting and funding projects in a fair and consistent way – including with the advice of independent assessors

It's a unique business model that allows clusters to move at the speed of business.

Funding flows into Canada's clusters through co-investment by government and industry, with an expectation of dollar-for-dollar matching. So far, industry investment has surpassed this expectation.

ISED announced its investment in Canada's five clusters through five non-repayable contributions:

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Digital Technology

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Protein Industries

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Advanced Manufacturing

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Scale AI

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asterix * The Global Innovation Clusters are investing nearly $2 billion over ten years. This includes $950 million announced in Budget 2017, an additional $60 million announced in Budget 2021 of which $20 million each was allocated to the Digital Technology, Protein Industries and Advanced Manufacturing clusters, and the $750 million announced in Budget 2022. A total of $71 million in program funding remained unused by the end of the first five years of the program. As a result, it was returned to the fiscal framework in line with Budget 2023 measures.

Intellectual Property is a key program consideration

To unravel the complexity and challenges around intellectual property (IP) and to maximize the impact for Canadian businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators, Canada's Global Innovation Clusters has made IP a key program consideration.

The clusters fund ground-breaking and collaborative projects, enabling ecosystem members to develop and to invest in the commercialization of Canadian-owned IP.

Clusters provide critical support for members and project participants, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the resources, guidance, education and opportunities to understand how to use and leverage IP to their advantage.

Each cluster is grounded by a strong IP Strategy that:

  • maximizes commercial potential and economic impact of funded projects and creates opportunities for Canadian businesses to expand;
  • allows for distinct IP portfolios to support members and SMEs in the commercialization of innovations; and,
  • provides accessible sharing of IP to facilitate collaboration with members that can improve their productivity and competitiveness.

Each cluster employs a Senior Official Responsible for IP who:

  • delivers educational IP engagements, such as workshops and project-specific guidance, to help members and SMEs become IP literate to support their business growth
  • explores opportunities to use and protect the IP developed through projects that makes the best business sense for them; and,
  • facilitates relationships that drive the commercialization of academic institution-developed IP.

Each cluster maintains a member accessible IP Database that:

  • encourages follow-on investments and stimulates the discoverability of IP;
  • allows members to assess potential interest in the innovation; and
  • fosters future synergies for stronger innovation and creates further economic benefits.

Each cluster's project is required to have an IP commercialization plan that:

  • provides an overview of the IP that is expected to be generated in the project, and agreement on how it will be shared among project partners;
  • supports the generation of revenue, either directly through licensing, or indirectly through products and services.

History of the program

The search for Canada's clusters started on May 24, 2017 as part of the Innovation and Skills Plan in the 2017 Budget.

The Global Innovation Clusters program, formerly known as the Innovation Superclusters Initiative, was launched through a two-phase competitive process.

The first phase of this process, which accepted letters of intent, closed on July 24, 2017. Only the most promising proposals moved ahead to the full application phase.

The successful clusters were announced on February 15, 2018:


The clusters were chosen based on:

  • their expected benefits to Canada, including economic impact and commercial results
  • how well they help position Canada for global leadership
  • And their plans to generate new Intellectual Property (IP) that could benefit Canada's economic development

Contact us

For any other questions you might have about the program, read our Frequently Asked Questions page or contact us.