Professor Santa Ono
February 19, 2018
3 mins read

Digital Technology Supercluster means exciting opportunities for UBC

On Feb 15, the Government of Canada announced its support for Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, a BC-led consortium of private industry, high-tech start-ups and post-secondary institutions.

I am proud that UBC is a founding member of the supercluster, along with TELUS, Microsoft, Teck, Change Healthcare, Providence Health Care and other members of the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia.

Besides the founding members, the consortium now includes Shoppers Drug Mart, Canfor, GE Digital, The Terry Fox Research Institute, University Health Network, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, SickKids and more than 200 other organizations and post-secondary institutions.

The Digital Technology Supercluster was selected for government support because of its ability to accelerate Canada’s global advantage in digital technology using big data to create new economic opportunities and address the productivity, health and sustainability challenges facing Canada and the world today.

Canada's Digital Technology Supercluster

I want to thank all the members of the consortium and congratulate them on their success. This initiative has already fostered unprecedented collaboration throughout the BC technology community and indeed across sectors and between provinces—collaboration that likely would not have occurred otherwise. I am truly excited about opportunities to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones that will benefit BC and Canada.

For UBC, the Digital Technology Supercluster means exciting opportunities for our researchers and students, now and in the future.

The supercluster will draw on research strengths, catalyze innovation and create new linkages and capacity in talent development.

The supercluster plans to focus on three projects to begin with: a secure health and genomic platform, an earth data store, and a digital learning factory.

  • The health platform would help build the core data infrastructure required to create advanced cancer treatments personalized to the unique genetic makeup of a patient and improve patient-centric care.
  • The earth data store would improve data collection, sharing and visualization—enhancing confidence in resource sector project planning and assessments for proponents, Indigenous Peoples, government and communities.
  • And the virtual learning factory would facilitate collaboration on the development of virtual environments that enable design, rapid experimentation, and testing of cost-saving approaches to address the most significant challenges in modern manufacturing. (You can find out more about the virtual learning factory at

The Digital Supercluster is national in scope, but it is rooted in BC’s thriving technology sector. As BC premier John Horgan put it, “Thousands of good-paying jobs will be created here, spurring innovation and supporting BC companies.”

The supercluster was one of five selected by the federal government for funding. The others are:

  • The Ocean Supercluster (based in Atlantic Canada) will use innovation to improve competitiveness in Canada’s ocean-based industries, including fisheries, oil and gas, and clean energy;
  • The SCALE.AI Supercluster (based in Quebec) will make Canada a world leading exporter by building intelligent supply chains through artificial intelligence and robotics;
  • The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster (based in Ontario) will connect Canada’s technology strengths to our manufacturing industry to make us a world manufacturing leader in the economy of tomorrow;
  • The Protein Industries Supercluster (based in the Prairies) will make Canada a leading source for plant proteins and help feed the world.
Map of Canada's Superclusters

The $950-million investment will be matched dollar for dollar by the private sector and is expected to create thousands of new jobs and grow Canada’s economy.

I applaud the Government of Canada for the Innovation Superclusters Initiative. It will bring together industry, research universities, and governments to accelerate economic growth in highly innovative industries that are critically important for Canada.

I very much look forward to taking the next steps in this process, and to working alongside our partners to realize the vision of Canada’s Digital Supercluster.

Professor Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor