Interim CEO Matt Hebb talks about the Ocean Supercluster ramp-up

May 16, 2018 | News

With the contribution agreement still being finalized, it will be at least another couple of months before the interim team guiding the Ocean Supercluster initiative knows exactly how much of the $950 million in federal government money over five years is coming its way.

Still, interim CEO Matt Hebb, Dalhousie University’s assistant vice-president for government relations and economic development, suggests the initial estimates of a co-investment between $300 million and $400 million are still viable.

Compared to the size of the Canadian economy as whole, even Hebb says it’s a drop in the bucket.

“But there’s never been an investment of this magnitude in trying to get the private sector to come together and collaborate on (research and development) and innovation with the intent of enhancing competitiveness, exports, growth and so on,” Hebb said after a session at the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technologies Industries (NATI) Knowledge Summit on Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re not going to change the course of the Canadian economy over five years, but what I think we can do is establish a proof of concept that this platform works.”

The platform itself is more of a catalyst for collaboration and partnership that allows industry — big and small and with the financial support of government — to strengthen the economy by expanding emerging sectors, expanding markets and creating new export opportunities.

“I think all of those things will be important and that will lay out a road map for the years ahead where we can start to look at doing things at an even greater scale,” Hebb said.

Even without knowing how much money there is to work with, the engagement from industry, research institutions, and SMEs is already strong, and the initiative has also drawn interest from Europe, Asia and the United States.

“Many of these conversations aren’t waiting until everything’s negotiated. These partnerships are happening now,” he says. “Companies are starting to talk to each other, they’re starting to collaborate, there’s new initiatives that are already starting as outgrowths of the process just to this point.”

That said, as eager as all sides are to get the ball rolling, everyone understands this is a new and complex initiative that gets more complex as more groups get involved.

“You have more structures start to evolve to make sure that people have equitable chances to participate and express their views,” he says.

“You want the opportunity to benefit from all that collective wisdom that’s out there and you want to get the best of what that growing community has to offer, so you’re improving the quality of what you’re putting forward, what you’re thinking about and how you can go about doing it.”