Building a Digital Supercluster
There is also the broader perspective of growing Scotland’s tech sector, so that there is a general accelerated growth of the economy produced from their success. We can catalyze and organize this effort through inspiring ambitions, like becoming the Blockchain Capital of Europe.
Canada has built on and advanced this approach through the launch of a series of “Superclusters“, concentrating large scale funding into keynote growth industries such as AI, Ocean Technology and Next Generation Manufacturing.
Through an investment of up to $950 million, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the private sector, the initiative is expected to create more than 50,000 jobs over ten years and grow Canada’s GDP.
For Scotland’s ambition to build a world leading digital nation the Digital Supercluster is especially relevant.
Although Canada’s Superclusters program are regional in focus, the Digital Supercluster actually offers an R&D agenda that is ideal for defining a Digital Economy strategy for the whole country, described in detail in their Capacity Building strategy.
The Digital Supercluster identifies an R&D framework ideal for chartering a network intended to develop Canada’s digital economy, including:
- Leverage work-integrated learning platforms;
- Develop diverse talent through relevant certification, work experience, education and training;
- Develop industry-relevant secondary, post-secondary and/or post-graduate expertise in digital innovation;
- Leverage access to Canada’s pool of scientific, technical, engineering expertise and capabilities;
- Encourage and enable senior-level digital and business development talent to work and develop skills in Canada;
- Support workforce transformation for industries facing digitization and automation, including re-skilling of Canadians;
- Use online or technology-based methods to reach potential talent, both to encourage them to pursue a career in tech and to train relevant skills; and,
- Develop best practices of diversity and inclusion that enable organizations to be more inclusive of participation by women and other under represented groups.
From Gaming to the Blockchain Scotland has a number of tech sub-sectors populated with very promising startups that offer global growth potential but aren’t yet working at the scale required to achieve that. These types of innovation programs offer the structure the government can employ to create a national platform for reaching that scale that the whole industry can benefit from.
A headline feature of our Digital Nation Action Plan is the development of ‘Industry Innovation Roadmaps’. These support Industry Accelerators.
Industry Innovation Roadmaps provide a vehicle for a sector to collaboratively develop a shared growth strategy, encompassing market research, product innovation and development of new routes to market.
Roadmaps collate market research, identify niche opportunities and co-ordinate a shared innovation pipeline for members to co-develop products to meet those opportunities.
Global Best Practices
The approach is based on best practices from around the world, notably Canada.
Canada has made extensive use of Michael Porter’s cluster model to underpin their economic development strategies, a focus on building industry sector collaborations that pool resources and encourage shared innovation that grows the success for all the participating members.
The backbone of these efforts are the creation of ‘Technology Roadmaps‘ (TRMs), a common product innovation roadmap and business plan for the whole industry that each business contributes to and can benefit from.
Technology Roadmaps are introduced and how to use them explained in detail in this guide, and the Canadian Government further explains them here, providing a list of completed roadmap programs for industries such as electric vehicles, intelligent buildings and smart grids among others, where they describe:
“Technology roadmapping brings players together to work together in a far-reaching planning process and opens the door to collaborative research and development (R&D).
Technology Roadmaps (TRM) can play a key role in enhancing innovation. It is a document outlining future market demand and the recommended means to meet this demand. A roadmap does not predict future breakthroughs in science or technology; rather, it forecasts and articulates the elements required to address future technological needs. A roadmap describes a given future, based on the shared vision of the people developing the roadmap and provides a framework for making that future happen technologically.”
A whole book is available that explores their usage in academic detail.
Clusters have long been a staple of government’s Economic Development strategies but are often organized by government in a top down fashion around large, broad industries like aerospace, and typically feature mostly large enterprises.
For smaller countries like Scotland with mostly SMEs this can be a limited approach, and so Digital Scotland is pioneering an approach of ‘Micro Clusters’, a bottom up forming up of an industry group around very specialized, small but very high growth niche segments.