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NRC is supporting the growth of 11 Canadian technology clusters, spanning a wide range of scientific disciplines.
Nine years after launching a first initiative to develop technology clusters, NRC and its partners have achieved some remarkable results. Today NRC is playing a seminal role in the growth of 11 technology clusters in cities where NRC already had a leading-edge research facility. Thanks to the collaboration of NRC researchers and local university, industry and government partners, each cluster is developing innovative technologies and the means to bring them to market.
NRC began devising its clusters strategy in the 1990s to create a Canadian equivalent to such globally competitive technology clusters as California's Silicon Valley and the automotive clusters of Germany and Japan. In 2000, NRC obtained a first round of federal funding for an initiative to develop four technology clusters in Atlantic Canada. Based on the success of this initiative, NRC later received funding to intensify the development of other clusters across Canada ' all contributing to priority areas of Canada's national S&T strategy.
A technology ?cluster? is a significant concentration of innovative companies around a nucleus of R&D facilities in a single locale ' the ideal environment for innovation to flourish.
The cluster concept
When several innovative companies come together and concentrate in a region, they attract others with technological and business expertise, and an interest in sharing the risks and benefits of collaborative research. A cluster benefits strongly from the presence of a local science and technology anchor ? a prominent research organization or university ' that can work with local companies to transfer technology and spin off new enterprises. This is the role that NRC has played.
Technology clusters are a proven way to fuel new economic development. They help create new roles for companies, government and other institutions working together to enhance competitiveness.
Making a difference from coast to coast
Although it typically takes 10 to 15 years for a technology cluster to deliver tangible results, most NRC cluster initiatives are already making their mark.
Vancouver ' Clean energy with fuel cells
The technology cluster in Vancouver is the world's fastest-growing and most sophisticated group of organizations focused on fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. While pockets of fuel cell research exist in other locations across Canada, Vancouver remains the national hub, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the roughly 2,000 Canadian jobs in the field. NRC's early strategic investment in this cluster has helped regional and national partners prepare to seize a significant share of a global market, which is projected to be worth more than US$8.5 billion by 2016.
Edmonton ' Nanotechnology for next-generation firms
NRC's decision to construct a state-of-the-art nanotechnology research facility in collaboration with the Province of Alberta and the University of Alberta has secured Canada's position at the vanguard of nanotechnology research worldwide. Today, the Edmonton cluster features researchers from industry, university and NRC, transforming nanoscience ideas into solutions that are shaping innovative commercial products.
Regina ' Innovating urban infrastructure management systems
NRC has responded to the looming crisis of aging infrastructure by concentrating research on managing the life cycle and renewal of the systems that provide electricity, communications and drinking water; maintain roads, highways and bridges; dispose of waste and clean up contaminated soil. In Regina, the NRC Centre for Sustainable Infrastructure Research concentrates its research on developing innovative condition assessment technologies and decision support systems. NRC is working with local firms to turn new technologies and methodologies for managing infrastructure into business opportunities in Canada and abroad.
Saskatoon ' Plants for health and wellness
NRC has been a catalyst for Saskatoon's spectacular plant biotechnology cluster growth for more than 20 years. NRC's own research facility is the hub for R&D on agricultural biotechnology for crop improvement and the production of nutraceuticals and functional foods. Saskatoon accounts for close to 30 percent of Canada's agricultural biotechnology activities. This cluster counts 57 companies, including 17 focused on functional foods and nutraceuticals and 16 on bioproducts. In 2006, NRC played a central role in creating the BioAccess Commercialization Centre, which helps new firms break into the commercial market.
Winnipeg ' Saving lives with biomedical technologies
The NRC-led biomedical technology cluster initiative supports one of the fastest-growing concentrations of firms specializing in medical devices and life sciences industries in Canada. Cluster companies employ some 4,200 highly skilled people and generate sales of more than $440 million a year ' a figure that grows annually. The NRC Centre for the Commercialization of Biomedical Technology in Winnipeg is helping technology organizations bring pioneering innovations to market.
Ottawa ' Harnessing light in new applications
In addition to driving the future of communications and information technology, new photonics-based technologies are now being developed for applications in sensing, energy generation and medical diagnostics. NRC has successfully mobilized the partners and resources needed to seize the commercial potential of photonics, making Ottawa a seat of pioneering innovation. The Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre is a cornerstone of this cluster, allowing companies to use simulation, design, fabrication, testing and prototyping services to reduce time-to-market for their products.
Saguenay ' Pioneering aluminium transformation
In the late 1990s, NRC targeted Saguenay ? the nation's top aluminium producing region ' as Canada's most promising investment site for aluminium R&D. In 2002, NRC built the state-of-the-art Aluminium Transformation Centre to help the region's most enterprising researchers develop innovative aluminium products. Thanks to the resources and key industry partnerships that NRC has cultivated there, the Saguenay cluster is conducting groundbreaking research into the most profitable ways of transforming aluminium into durable, lightweight components for a host of industries.
Halifax ' Health and life sciences technologies
With more than 50 companies hard at work on life sciences R&D, Halifax has rapidly built its capacity to produce lucrative, leading-edge life sciences products. NRC has helped this cluster develop expertise in medical technology; the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of neurological diseases; and the production of marine-based bioproducts. The Halifax cluster is positioned to become a global leader in linking brain research to advanced patient care.
Moncton/Fredericton ' Information technology and e-business
Since 2000, NRC has brought key players in New Brunswick's e-business technology cluster together to pursue a common objective: seize a sizable share of the global e-business market, where sales have reached $8.5 trillion. NRC has been collaborating with New Brunswick companies and universities on groundbreaking research to develop innovative information technologies that address Canada's needs in health care, learning and the electronic marketplace. Twenty-three small, leading-edge information technology firms have benefited from NRC support in turning research into marketable products.
Charlottetown ' Nutrisciences and health
Prince Edward Island has become a Canadian R&D centre for using bioresources ? renewable, naturally occurring land-and sea-based resources ' to produce pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. In 2001, NRC began uniting P.E.I.?s expertise in bioresources into a cluster of industry and university partners that together could capitalize on a global nutrition market valued at more than $100 billion. In 2006, NRC strengthened the cluster by building a nutrisciences and health research facility that attracts top talent from the worldwide bioresources community.
St. John's ' Ocean technologies
NRC is nurturing a vibrant cluster of organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador to capture a significant portion of the $1.8 trillion global ocean technologies market. Marine-based oil and gas services, energy-efficient marine transportation, eco-sensitive ocean harvesting, and climate and ocean monitoring are just some of the areas in which NRC and its partners conduct R&D. NRC is collaborating with more than 50 companies, municipal and provincial governments, and other government departments. Regional and national innovation networks are being established in Arctic operations, marine safety, ocean energy and national security.
Keeping up the momentum
The Government of Canada sees clustering as an essential component of its S&T Strategy and a key indicator of Canada's capacity to innovate. It also recognizes NRC's research and technology transfer activities as an integral component of cluster success.
Since 2000, the Government of Canada has invested $554.2 million through NRC to help catalyze these 11 technology clusters. This investment has provided a strong foundation for networking and the development and commercialization of new technologies. Each cluster initiative can now point to important new research findings, commercial applications and business opportunities, as well as new jobs for highly skilled people. With the ongoing support of NRC and its partners, these clusters will be a pipeline to sustained economic growth.