Get On Board for an Innovation "SuperCluster"

By Don Richardson, Managing Partner, Shared Value Solutions Ltd.

This is a compelling map juxtaposition from a recent Huffington Post article by Pat Lynch - Why Toronto and Waterloo are Hooking Up. We see the Silicon Valley "SuperCluster" and its innovation corridor nodes like pearls on a string, and we see the potential GTA West 401 corridor "SuperCluster" and its innovation nodes.

As Lynch states, nearly 1,000 companies big and small are huddled around Waterloo Region & Guelph-Wellington, and contributing some $30-billion annually to the Ontario economy. This region thrives on innovation in sectors that include information & communication technologies, environment, water, agriculture, engineering and natural resource management.

The Waterloo Region & Guelph-Wellington area works because it has places where people want to live, work and play -- according to Lynch, these are the three elements that anchor a cluster as a place of innovation. To the east is Toronto, where there are some emerging innovation areas, but nothing quite on the scale of Waterloo Region & Guelph-Wellington. Toronto wants more innovation and it is looking west along the 401 for the business innovation drivers, and people, it needs. And overall, Ontario is sitting on an obvious Innovation SuperCluster just waiting for a nudge.

We agree with Lynch: the nodes and corridor between Waterloo Region & Guelph-Wellington and Toronto must be actively transformed into a technology "SuperCluster." At Shared Value Solutions Ltd., we're big fans of business cluster theory - our company name comes from a paper by Michael Porter, the Harvard Business School guru of cluster theory. We know that if we get the two clusters shown on the map at the ends of the 401 connected with efficient and user-friendly transportation infrastructure, other parts of the innovation ecosystem, like a hub and spoke, will start to really develop.

To cultivate the SuperCluster, we must have a free flow of people between Toronto and Waterloo Region & Guelph-Wellington. People want to live, work and innovate in the Waterloo Region & Guelph-Wellington area - this is a great place to raise families, the cost of living is affordable, there are ample recreational activities, there are thousands of smart people graduating from four stellar post-secondary institutions every year and it's cheap to get together to collaborate.

But for access to capital and major financial institutions, access to the next level of business development, access to the corridors of political power, access to corporate head offices, access a massive amount of commercial legal talent, and access to two major airports, Waterloo Region & Guelph-Wellington needs better transportation connections to Toronto. And to further develop the Ontario and Toronto economies, Toronto needs better transportation connections to the Waterloo Region & Guelph-Wellington area to stimulate the growth of its innovation nodes.

What will it take to really cultivate this Innovation SuperCluster? It's as simple as more frequent train service. Let's get on board and create one of North America's major Innovation SuperClusters.


(c) Shared Value Solutions Ltd., 2013

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