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This week's federal budget includes $100 million for an Alberta-based energy consortium, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says it's about time federal funds for a project like this came the industry's way, after it was snubbed by Ottawa's previous "supercluster" program.


Money earmarked for Clean Resource Innovation Network over next 4 years

Robson Fletcher · CBC News · Posted: Mar 22, 2019 10:26 AM MT | Last Updated: March 22

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi says 'the innovation agenda of the federal government has to include Alberta.' (CBC)


The money is to be dispersed over the next four years to the Clean Resource Innovation Network — a collection of private companies, non-profits and post-secondary institutions working on new technologies to reduce the environmental impacts of the oil and gas industry.

Nenshi said the federal government overlooked Alberta in its previous funding initiative for projects like this, which awarded $950 million to five "superclusters" focused on other industries in other regions.

"Those superclusters had benefits in nine out of 10 provinces — not in Alberta, which is the one that needed the investment the most," Nenshi said.

"And so I've been pushing hard that the innovation economy, the innovation agenda of the federal government has to include Alberta."

The five previously funded superclusters are now "up and running," according to the federal budget, supporting innovation in the fields of digital technologies, food production, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence in supply-chain management and ocean industries.

What is a 'supercluster'?

To understand a "supercluster," it's important to first understand what a business cluster is.

A cluster comes to be "when related companies, organizations and talent pools are located in close proximity to each other, sometimes competing and sometimes collaborating," business journalist Paul Gallant explained in an article for CBC.

Business clusters also "energize the economy ... giving rise to new jobs," Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada says on a section of its website.

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau rises to deliver the federal budget in the House of Commons on Tuesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press )

By contrast, the site says, a supercluster "is an innovation hotbed that is home to a strong industrial cluster, or clusters, linked through their shared reliance on specialized inputs, including technologies, talent and infrastructure."

This leads to "stronger and more numerous linkages" and "the ability to attract talent and investment across highly innovative industries."

The federal budget says the five previously funded superclusters are "expected to create 50,000 jobs and add $50 billion to the economy over the next 10 years."

The document goes on to say that this latest $100 million for the Clean Resource Innovation Network "will support economic growth, will create good, well-paying jobs, and will lead to cleaner energy production from source to end use."

What is the Clean Resource Innovation Network?

The network counts nearly 150 organizations among its current members, from major oil and gas companies like Cenovus and Husky, to smaller-sized businesses like Beaver Drilling and Acceleware, to industry associations like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Canadian Fuels Association.

It also includes non-profit organizations like the Canada West Foundation and Calgary Economic Development as well as post-secondary institutions, including the University of Calgary and University of Alberta.

The network describes itself as "an Alberta-based hub of industry, academia, government, innovators and businesses" with a shared goal "to improve and accelerate the economic and environmental competitiveness of the oil and natural gas sector as part of the global lower carbon economy."

Nenshi said the federal funds come at a good time.

"Investments right at this moment in Calgary and in Alberta are a great window of opportunity," he said, "because we've got this incredibly educated workforce, we've got a lot of private capital, we've got a great place to live, obviously."

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