Digital Technology Supercluster makes $10 million investment, rounding out $60 million COVID-19 program

Digital technology supercluster

The Digital Technology Supercluster has made $10.7 million in follow-on investments to five projects under its COVID-19 stream, rounding out the Supercluster’s $60 million budget for the pandemic-focused program.

Bill Tam said these latest follow-on investments are a testament to the Supercluster model.

The COVID-19 program was created at the beginning of the pandemic to invest in digital solutions that protect the Canadian economy as well as public health. The creation of the program followed a decision in March from the federal government to refocus some of the Superclusters in order to help in the fight against the pandemic.

The COVID program’s $60 million came from the Digital Technology Supercluster’s $153 million budget.

The $10.7 million in follow-on investments come as a recent report from the parliamentary budget officer found that the Superclusters were far behind on their spending goals as of March 6. The report found the federal government’s five Superclusters had dolled out just $30 million instead of the $104 million they had been projected to spend by that time.

Bill Tam, co-founder and chief operating officer of the Digital Technology Supercluster, emphasized that the reporting conducted by the parliamentary budget officer did not capture the Supercluster’s momentum since March.

Tam claimed that, since March, the Digital Technology Supercluster has already completed its entire year’s worth of investments.

According to targets the Supercluster shared with BetaKit, the Supercluster was set to have about $170 million deployed by both itself and private sector partners, into 40 to 45 projects.

As of October 21, the Supercluster and its private sector partners have invested a collective $223 million in 67 projects since the inception of the initiative, according to the Supercluster’s annual report. Tam said he expects the Supercluster will have fully invested its $153 million budget by March 2021.

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“I think the grand experiment of the Supercluster model is working,” Tam said, noting that the Supercluster’s ability to double down on these collaborations presents an opportunity to change the shape of Canada’s innovation economy.

The five projects that received the cumulative $10.7 million have previously received financial support from the Supercluster under its COVID-19 program as “feasibility studies.”

“Our follow on investment thesis is really about being able to double down.”

Tam told BetaKit the feasibility studies allowed the project organizers to determine whether a technology or innovative idea is appropriate for a large-scale project with the intention of developing an application for co-investment.

“We have feasibility assessment vehicles in order for these teams to actually have a sandbox with which to collaborate on initiatives,” Tam said. “Our follow on investment thesis is really about being able to double down.”

The projects receiving follow-on funding include:

COVID Cloud: $3.18 million

Originally called Beacon, this project is developing a digital technology platform to help track how SARS-CoV-2 is evolving over time and across specific geographic regions. The project’s initial investment from the Supercluster totalled $250,000.

Lifesaver: $2.85 million

This project aims to fill COVID-19 information gaps by consolidating and harmonizing vast arrays of data. Lifesaver’s initial investment from the Supercluster totalled $250,000.

Raven2: $1.62 million

Raven2 extends the scope of the team’s original work by finding new, safe COVID-19 therapeutics that could be sold commercially in Canada and worldwide. The project’s initial investment from the Supercluster was $250,000.

Scaling Safe Food Delivery for Canadians: $2.58 million

This project will see startup Food-X Technologies develop an e-grocery solution that aims to help retailers offer online grocery sales at scale. The project’s initial investment from the Supercluster totalled $250,000.

Screen O/S: $450,000

This project is focused on improving COVID-19 screening for the education sector and film industry after a successful two-month assessment of their on-the-spot screening technology. The project’s initial investment from the Supercluster was $87,000.

Tam said although the program’s COVID-19 budget has been fully deployed, there is still an opportunity for follow-on investment from the Supercluster’s broader $153 million budget. All projects that receive investments from the Supercluster are able to receive follow-on funding, including those not part of the COVID-19 program.

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast