Canada’s federal budget will launch a competition to pick about a half dozen research clusters that will receive hundreds of millions in government funding, people familiar with the plans say.
Innovation and skills training will be a key theme of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s second budget, due for release March 22 in Ottawa.
Last year’s budget allocated up to C$800 million ($600 million) over four years to “support innovation networks and clusters” and this year’s plan won’t include any significant new funding on top of that, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the document isn’t yet public.
The government will launch the process to pick the innovation clusters where the federal money is best concentrated, focusing where there’s already Canadian knowledge and expertise. The competition will be held in spring or early summer, one person said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has turned to innovation — a catch-all for boosting productivity, fostering startups, scaling companies and expanding skills training — as another tool for expanding growth.
Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains committed last year to engaging with industry on which clusters and “innovation networks” are most deserving. “We will launch an expression of interest to identify the best opportunities for us to work together,” he said in September. Earlier this month, Bains also loosened immigration rules to fast-track work permits for high-skilled labor.