Healthcare innovation: Advancing better outcomes and economic growth


Sue Paish, CEO, Digital Technology Supercluster

Ms. Paish has led innovation and transformation across the professional services, healthcare and technology sectors. She was an influential employment and labour law lawyer before transitioning to corporate leadership roles. Ms. Paish has been honoured multiple times for her commitment to business leadership with several awards, including the Hall of Fame for Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.

She opened her presentation with a harsh reality – the Canadian economy is slipping on the global stage in terms of research and development investment, productivity per person and income potential.  

The Digital Technology Supercluster was one of five superclusters selected for a strategy aimed at driving commercially successful innovation, fostering growth and creating jobs across Canada to share in $950 million of funds dedicated by the federal government to the Innovation Supercluster Initiative. The other four Canadian superclusters are Protein Industries Supercluster, Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, Scale.Ai Supercluster and Ocean Supercluster.

The Digital Technology Supercluster selects and invests in ambitious, collaborative technology leadership projects. Their main objective is for the world to view Canada as a leader in developing digital products and platforms. The Digital Technology Supercluster is dedicated to the following initiatives:

·        Building powerful partnerships and alliances, inducing matching organizations that would not normally work together

·        Increasing the breadth and diversity of professionals ready for a digital economy by focusing on programs and projects that will improve the talent base  

·        Providing small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) an opportunity to grow, scale their businesses and increase ecosystem performance by exposing them to new markets and conducting business internationally

·        Developing globally competitive platforms and companies

The Digital Technology Supercluster is a member-based organization. At the time of the conference, there were over 340 Digital Technology Supercluster members. They partner with Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), a department of the Government of Canada, and are committed to fostering a growing, competitive and knowledge-based Canadian economy.

In the Canadian economy, as well as around the world, data is a currency. This organization focuses on collecting data, analyzing data and visualizing data for the industrial, natural resources and healthcare industries. The Digital Technology Supercluster is the sole Canadian supercluster focused on healthcare.

Collaboration is essential to create a successful partnership and potential project. The Digital Technology Supercluster facilitates partnerships. To be eligible to submit a formal project proposal, applicants need at least three organizations working together (one must be a SME, one must be a post-secondary education organization). Proposals are accepted every six months. If a team of internal and external reviewers selects the project, the Digital Technology Supercluster co-invests with the project team.

As of June 2019, seven projects have been selected to move forward with guidance and support from the Digital Technology Supercluster. A brief description of the three healthcare projects follows:

1.      Pharmacogenetics – using a cheek swab and pharmacogenetic technology, the patient, pharmacist and physician can see the effect of the patient’s genetics on the top 900 commonly prescribed medications to improve the accuracy of prescribing effective medications for patients.

2.      Dermatology Point-of-Care Intelligent Network – dramatically decreasing the time it takes to diagnose a patient with skin cancer by having a dermatologist review a picture of a lesion or mole. With this technology, patients can send a picture to their doctor, and it will be analyzed by artificial intelligence to diagnose and begin treatment within weeks instead of months.

3.      Secure Health & Genomics Platform – a single platform to collect, secure, store, protect, access, share, leverage, use and commercialize health data to drive better and more cost effective patient care and accelerated research.

The Digital Technology Supercluster has had a tremendous impact on the Canadian economy since its inception in February 2018 with the following results:

·        Seven technology leadership projects

·        162 estimated full-time positions created by the projects

·        $15 million investment by the Digital Technology Supercluster in cycle one projects

·        Cycle one investment leveraged to $40 million

·        Over 100 Expressions of Interest (EOI), 300 member organizations and 120 SMEs

In closing, Ms. Paish asked the audience, “why should you care?” about the Canadian economy and this initiative. If our global competitiveness continues to decline, it will negatively affect us all. If we become the global centre for the collection, protection, securing, accessing, sharing and monetization of health data, we could significant reduce the current investment—nearly 50% of our provincial budgets across the country—and transform healthcare into an area of economic growth. Nationally and internationally, the Canadian economy has the potential to thrive if we harness the power of innovation. 


Report written by: Julie Ferlisi, The Write Approach Professional Services

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