Western gets boost from federal supercluster

Western hopes to gain a boost in leading advanced-manufacturing research through partnerships with industry that will vie for a share of $950 million in new funding through the Innovation Superclusters Initiative.

The funding will be awarded to businesses of all sizes, academic institutions and not-for-profit organizations that collaborate to generate bold ideas through research and innovation.

Western, through the Ontario Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, could join a partnership with companies looking for expertise in new processes, technology or materials, said intergovernmental affairs head Peter White.

What follows next will be a call for projects; an industry or group wanting research expertise would seek partnerships with Western; and together they would seek funding support from the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster. Any funding they would receive would be matched by industry.

To cite just one example, if an industrial firm in southwestern Ontario were seeking help to design and test a new lightweight material, it would approach Western Engineering and the Fraunhofer Project Centre for Composites Research to develop a proposal.

Unlike other funding envelopes initiated by either the institution or levels of government, this process “is driven by industry,” White said.

The benefits are many: advances in knowledge and knowledge-translation, enhanced partnerships among institutional, public and private sectors; and a boost in jobs.

The Superclusters Initiative is new for Canada and is intended to grow innovative businesses in Canada and draw new ones here.

The Ontario Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, led by Next Generation Manufacturing Canada, has qualified for as much as $230 million of the total $950-million fund, the province said.

The federal Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada says the expected economic impact would be more than $13.5 billion with job creation of about 13,500 over 10 years.

Western was a key partner in developing the proposal for the advanced-manufacturing cluster.

“It’s a great investment. We’re excited about the supercluster announcement and look forward to engaging with industrial partners and working with Western,” said Engineering Dean Andrew Hrymak.

The other superclusters announce this week:

  • Digital Technology, based in British Columbia, would create as many as 13,500 jobs with a 10-year Gross Domestic Product boost of $5 billion;
  • Protein Industries, focusing on plant and crop technologies, based in the Prairie provinces; with a 10-year GDP boost of $4.5 billion and 4,500 new jobs;
  • SCALE.AI, based in Quebec but spanning the Windsor-Quebec City corridor, intends to bring intelligent supply chains across industries through artificial intelligence and robotics; $16.5-million GDP bump and 16,000 jobs;  and
  • Ocean, based in the Atlantic provinces, will strengthen industries such as marine renewable energies, fisheries and aquaculture, with a GDP boost of $14 billion and 3,000 new jobs over 10 years.