Atlantic Canada’s Ocean Supercluster has been named one of five groups to share $950 million in federal funding to establish innovation hubs across Canada over the next five years.

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced the five winners at a ceremony in Ottawa on Thursday, and the Atlantic Canadian finalist made the cut.

What this means is that Ottawa will contribute more than $125 million over five years, which will be matched by investment from private industry. This will go toward establishing a collaborative network across the region, which will allow large and small companies, government and academia to work together in developing ocean-related technologies.

“The government’s investment in the Ocean Supercluster will position Canada as a global leader in the ocean economy of the future,” said Robert Orr, Managing Director of Cuna del Mar, one of the private sector sponsors of the Ocean Supercluster. “It catalyzes unprecedented private investment in collaborative innovation across Canada’s ocean sectors, including energy, food and bio products, shipping, defence, and ocean technology. This will kick start new partnerships, innovations, and economic opportunities.”

Last year, the federal government outlined a plan to develop several “superclusters” of technology across the country. The idea is that by growing hubs of expertise in specific locations, partnerships will emerge that encourage innovation and economic growth.

The Ocean Supercluster is overseen by a multi-province steering committee, which has proposed a structure comprising three layers of participants. At the top is a group of major private investors, which is now made up of: Clearwater Fine Foods and the electricity company Emera, both of Halifax; Petroleum Research of St.  John’s; and investment firm Cuna Del Mar. Below this segment are: other corporations involved in ocean-related businesses; and institutions that support research and the ecosystem.

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The organization must come up with at least $125 million in private investment, which will be matched by the federal program. The group, which will probably have bases in all four provinces, will then channel the money over five years into a series of projects that will advance ocean-related industries.

The committee envisages a structure that would encourage innovators to provide solutions to problems common to all ocean-related endeavors. Startups and other SMEs would be integral to devising the solutions – especially digital solutions, such as data-analytics products – that could be adapted by companies in Canada and elsewhere.

The other winners are:

- The SCALE.AI Supercluster (based in Quebec), which will build intelligent supply chains through artificial intelligence and robotics;
- The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster (based in Ontario), which will connect Canada’s technology strengths to its manufacturing industry;
- The Protein Industries Supercluster (based in the Prairies), which aims to make Canada a leading source for plant proteins;
- And, the Digital Technology Supercluster (based in British Columbia), which will use big data and digital technologies to unlock new potential in such sectors as healthcare, forestry, and manufacturing.

A group centered in New Brunswick had also proposed a smart grid supercluster, but did not make the list of finalists. It is pushing ahead with its work and finding funding from other sources.