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

The government supports the strategic use of intellectual property (IP) to help businesses grow. As companies come together to work on projects through the clusters, they can generate IP assets, such as inventions, technologies, software, proprietary information, brands, etc., all of which can be protected with certain IP rights.

That's why one key feature of the Cluster program approach encourages the strategic management of IP, and it is built into the framework of the program. For example, each cluster must set out an IP strategy, hire an in-house IP manager, and create an IP database for its members. In addition, partners must develop an IP agreement for each collaborative technology leadership project.

Each cluster's IP Strategy must:

  • ensure that IP is developed and managed in the most accessible way for its members (i.e. it has to spell out how a cluster will encourage new collaborations)
  • strike a balance between providing access to IP that will promote innovation and IP that will protect members' commercial interests
  • allow for all project partners, from small and medium companies to non-profits, to be able to make independent decisions on how to use that IP

Each cluster's IP Manager:

  • is a dedicated expert resource for the cluster (since many small and medium size companies do not have access to in-house IP expertise) and provides training
  • helps members identify opportunities to use IP developed through cluster projects
  • manages the cluster's IP database and reports on its progress

Each cluster's IP Database:

  • contains information about all of its IP assets
  • gives members an easier way to take out licenses on its project-generated IP
  • encourages members to share their IP for stronger innovation and collaboration

Each cluster's collaborative technology leadership projects are required to have an IP agreement that:

  • provides an overview of the IP that is expected to be generated in the project
  • provides the ownership and licensing terms of the expected IP

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.