The federal government has announced it will spend $950 million on what it’s calling an “Innovation Superclusters Initiative” to advance sectors like infrastructure, advanced manufacturing and agriculture.
While Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains made the announcement near Ottawa last week, Finance Minister Bill Morneau was at the University of Manitoba to “highlight” the role agriculture and agri-foods will play in the initiative.
“Agri-food, agriculture is absolutely one of those places where we know that a focus on creating more innovation can make an enormous difference over the long term,” he said, noting his advisory council on economic growth has reported on the benefits of collaboration in industries like agriculture.
“We made the observation over the course of our research… that there are places in the world that are significantly more successful because they combine the effectiveness of research through universities and other kinds of institutions with large anchor firms and smaller vibrant firms and they come together to actually create much more than the sum of their parts,” Morneau told those gathered in a lab at the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals to hear him speak.
Noting that agriculture and agri-foods currency accounts for six per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product, the minister then set a goal for industry expansion.
“We think that we can increase this sector to $75 billion by 2025, we know that that’s a very, very aggressive target, and we know that in order to do that we need to actually do some things to make it happen,” Morneau said.
To assist in this, the minister added that agri-food enterprises will also be eligible to access funding from the government’s $1.26-billion, five-year Strategic Innovation Fund. There will be funding available for those looking to better protect waterways, including the Lake Winnipeg basin as well, he said.
First noted in the Liberal’s 2017 budget, the superclusters will allocate “a small number of high-value, strategic investments in the form of non-repayable contributions to industry-led consortia through a two-phase application process,” according to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
Those contributions could be as large as $250 million and will be matched by private sector investment.
“So by bringing together innovators, collaborators from an academic standpoint, from a business standpoint, we can have a real impact on growing sectors that are so important for the future of our country,” Morneau said. “Today is the day we are starting down that path.”