Brampton’s Economy at Risk to Forgo $250 Million Innovation Supercluster Investment

Hon. Navdeep Bains - Source @NavdeepSBains

Are Brampton businesses engaged in innovation and are they willing to invest in our local economy? At stake is a share of $950-million announced on Wednesday by Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Innovation and Science Minister. The new funding is being offered to 5 high growth “superclusters” through a competitive proposal process. The intent is to spur economic activity and job creation.

Superclusters, as explained by the government are:

Dense areas of business activity where innovation happens and where many of the middle-class jobs of today and tomorrow are created. They attract large and small companies that collaborate with universities, colleges or not-for-profit organizations—forming a consortium—to turn ideas into solutions that can be brought to market.

Proposals asking for $125-million or more are due on July 21st and will only be accepted from business led consortiums. The consortiums are required to match the federal government’s investment for a minimum total investment into the supercluster of $250-million. Proposals will be evaluated based on “their strategy for creating and growing new companies, creating jobs that require advanced skill sets, equipping Canadians with the knowledge and skills for the jobs of the future, attracting private investment and generating meaningful economic activity that leads to prosperity for Canadians.”

The idea of a supercluster is not new. Silicon Valley is the most well known and successful cluster of software and technology companies that have created enormous economic benefits to the local and international economy. The Toronto-Waterloo corridor of research universities and start-up companies is being touted to have to same potential for the Southern Ontario and national economy.

Brampton is physically positioned in a prime location of this new corridor. The city, with provincial funding has partnered with Ryerson University and Sheridan College to start the planning process for a new STEAM based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Match) facility. Over time this will spur start-ups and bring much needed talent into the city. However, there are signs that Brampton will miss out on the bigger opportunity. The recent High Speed Rail corridor announcement from the Wynne government between Toronto and Windsor ignores Brampton, with many in the city voicing concerns that the immediate focus must be to achieve all day two way GO Train service as soon as possible.

Can a consortium of Brampton businesses, with a nudge from the Brampton Board of Trade and the Economic Development team from the city organize a letter of intent for a Brampton supercluster initiative by July 21st? The likelihood of success, especially against established clusters across the country is low. However, the benefits of trying now would certainly bode well for injecting innovation into our city’s DNA and preparing for what comes next.