The development of clusters as a key factor for the success of knowledge-based industries is not a new concept. A recent report ("Report") from Canada's Science Technology and Innovation Council affirms that the drivers of innovation success include a private sector focussed on science, technology and innovation strategies, education and research institutions and researchers and workers.

The Report stresses that innovation performance comes from not only how well these performers do individually, but how well they collaborate with each other. By supporting collaborations, clusters provide competitive advantages. Physical proximity facilitates linkages and reduces the cost of innovation through shared resources and information. Successful clusters also attract a large pool of highly qualified or specialized people and become centres of specialized investment capital.

The growth of clusters, while primarily a result of market forces, can be assisted by public policies, such as those that provide a knowledge infrastructure and encourage collaboration between research institutions, government and the private sector and those that enhance cooperation between different levels of government.

It is definitely not simple to build successful and thriving clusters. The right intentions and rhetoric are not sufficient. A recent article in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News on emerging technology clusters recognizes that while there are many great research institutions throughout the world, many proposed clusters do not reach critical mass. The article suggests that it is the business aspects of growing a biotech cluster that are most difficult. Ernst & Young's global biotech leader states that "the secret sauce for biotech success is experienced venture capital, experienced management and a serial entrepreneurial culture."

The article reviews briefly many emerging global biotech clusters. Toronto and Vancouver are included, but, surprisingly, Montreal is not. [It is suggested that the author take another look at Montreal as a biotech cluster.] The article illustrates how competitive many of the world's regions have become in trying to attract biotech through building strong, sustainable clusters.

The article provides ample evidence that for Canada to maintain its position as a leader in the biotechnology sector, governments at all levels, the private sector, the investment community and the research community must have a strategic focus, align their interests and work collaboratively to build the strongest and most attractive regional clusters across the country.

For more information, please see:  

Gail Dutton, "Emerging Biotechnology Clusters", Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, May 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 9) at www.genengnews.com. The Science, Technology and Innovation Council Report "State of the Nation 2008: Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation System" is available online at www.stic-csti.ca.