Move over oil, Big Data is the new fuel to run the world

The centrepiece of Canada’s innovation strategy is the $950-million “supercluster” initiative. The goal, according to the federal government, is for companies of all sizes, academia and the non-profit sector to collaborate on new technologies, to spur economic growth and create jobs. As part of the Innovation Nation series, the Financial Post is taking an in-depth look at each of the five regional projects, and provide continuing coverage of their progress. You can find all of our coverage here.

Drugs tailored to a person’s genetics don’t appear to have a lot in common with airplane assembly line simulations or smart devices that monitor tree cutting in remote forests.

But all three technologies are among the first to get funding from British Columbia’s digital technology supercluster, one of five innovation hubs the federal government is investing $950 million in over five years in hopes of spawning world-leading technologies and companies.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development granted the B.C. hub $153 million, with 29 members pitching in another $200 million. An additional 500 organizations including non-profits have signed on as associates without making a financial commitment.

The West Coast cluster is an amalgamation of post-secondary institutions and large and small businesses from sectors including health care, mining, forestry and aerospace.

What unites these disparate players is big data and, more critically, a need to analyze the huge volumes of information being collected. Some say the ability to analyze this data could become the currency that fuels every element of the economy, much like oil was the currency of the last century.