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Manitoba falls short in supercluster area because Premier did not put enough effort in.

On Monday the results of the first round in a national competition for funding for a supercluster were announced.  Manitoba was shut out.  Supercluster funding is designed to move a major effort forward to create national centres of innovation such as have happened in Silicon Valley in the United States.

Nine superclusters have passed the first round.   Four of these superclusters were in western Canada, one in Saskatchewan, two in Alberta and one in British Columbia.  Manitoba should have had a proposal pass the first round but we did not.

There were a number of important components in this major competition which were vital to success.

1) The Premier, if he is to be believed, did not take the time to understand the nature of the competition and the requirements for success.  He said yesterday that he was going to ask Ottawa for the criteria for the competition.  Asking after the competition is over is too late.  He should have found out before as they were publicly known.

2) Central to the supercluster effort is the creation of a very active centre of innovation in the community.   This, to date, Pallister and his government have failed to do.  Pallister may have talked about innovation but he has done little.

3) In the lead up to the competition, there was federal matching funding for post-secondary education infrastructure projects.  As an example, I understand that the University of Winnipeg had put in a proposal for infrastructure support for machine learning which is a central component of the EMILI (Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative) project which was at the centre of the Manitoba submission for the supercluster competition.  However, the province did not provide any funding and the federal government which requires matching provincial funding for such infrastructure funding could not provide funding because the province did not step forward.   So the lack of foresight by the province and the lack of provincial understanding of how this proposal fit into building a supercluster here held Manitoba back.

4) A group of technology investors from southern Ontario, who have already invested in the Province were ready to put $60 million into EMILI's venture arm but the province did not follow up and did not come forward with matching funding for this critical effort to create a supercluster here in Manitoba.  The Premier had an opportunity to bring major technology innovators to Manitoba to play a major role in building the supercluster.   But this he failed to do.  If you do not build the blocks one by one as opportunities come forward then you lose and lose and lose.

5) The EMILI project builds on one of the major contributions of Canadians to computer learning and artificial intelligence.  This field is moving fast.   Premier Pallister should have jumped in with support for EMILI (and not just verbal, also financial support) so that it could build in its efforts and would have the best possible chance to move forward rapidly.   This the Premier failed to do.  Because the Premier waited a year and a half and still has not provided significant funding to EMILI  this whole field is moving fast elsewhere and we have fallen behind because of the Premier's inaction.

6) Getting Manitoba's supercluster funding advanced would have benefitted from a provincial team effort including all parties in the Manitoba Legislature to ensure people in Ottawa knew this was a major provincial priority.   Gary Doer understood this and on several occasions we had all party teams go to Ottawa to speak out for Manitoba's interests.  It was effective.  Sadly, the Premier spent all his time arguing with Ottawa and has done much less well in advancing positive building projects like the development of a supercluster in Manitoba.

Add it all up, and the supercluster funding was Manitoba's to win.   We lost because the Premier did not really understand how the competition works and how he has to be a player if Manitoba is going to win. 

See the initial hype on EMILI by clicking at this link - Manitoba Hype     It is sad that the Premier did not follow through to deliver on this.


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