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Parliamentary budget official says Ottawa's Innovation Superclusters Initiative will miss job creation goals

Parliamentary budget official says Ottawa's Innovation Superclusters Initiative will miss job creation goals

Ottawa's Innovation Superclusters Initiative (ISI) is not receiving enough federal funds and is likely to miss its construction and GDP growth targets, according to a report released on 6 October by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Yves Giroux. 

The report also indicates that the innovation impact is unknown with PBO requesting the federal government to use quantitative performance indicators to effectively and accurately measure the innovation impact of ISI. Introduced by the federal government in its 2017 budget, ISI aims to create 50,000 jobs in Canada, accelerate innovation and exceed GDP by $ 50 billion over 10 years. 

Budget 2017 The initiative invested $ 950 million over five years to build five superclusters across Canada, where the public and private sectors would conduct collaborative research. 

Federal funds are expected to be matched by contributions from non-federal entities, including the private sector, universities, and other levels of government. 

Non-federal partners have announced $ 1,087 million over the same five-year period. This announcement was followed by the launch of five successful consortia by innovation minister Navdeep Bains in February 2018. 

According to PBO, however, the data shared by the government in March 2020 is indicative of gaps in actual spending compared to the original budget. 

The government originally estimated that it would have spent $ 104 million (or 11 percent of its total budget) by that point. In comparison, only $ 30 million (29 percent of the original launch) was spent, of which most (59 percent) has been spent on administrative and operational functions to date. 

The remaining (41 percent) has been distributed to 45 specific research projects. The report states, "If Supercluster Partners spend all the money that has been announced, it will result in approximately 27,000 direct jobs." 

"However, the nature of these jobs, whether they are full-time, part-time, permanent or temporary, is unknown at this point." The PBO said the government needed to physically increase the "rate of project selection and implementation" to achieve the planned deadlines and goals. 

The data and analysis in this report were based on information gathered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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