Super clusters to aid in forestry innovation

In ForestTECH, Issue12 by FIEA

Information sharing between competing businesses and research facilities in B.C.’s forestry sector, could help grow the industry, rather than create more competition, according to tech experts.

Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster Consortium was at the Council of Forest Industries Convention in Prince George on Thursday to talk about how superclusters can help forestry and other resource industries.

Superclusters are innovation hotbeds, fuelled by dense regional economies that grow at rapid rates as a result of tight relationships between businesses, large and small, and post-secondary and other research institutions.

With all the technology being used to understand B.C.’s forests, such as drones, ground surveys and satellite imaging, the sharing of information could ultimately lead to identifying potential hotspots for wildfires, figuring out how to manage forests, and understanding how infestations, such as the devastating pine beetle, spread.

“Our intention is to use digital technology as a means to really drive the accelerated growth of our resource industries and also some of the other industries that are predominant here in British Columbia,” digital technology supercluster co-chair Bill Tam told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.

“The idea was to really design a framework where you can encourage collaboration across companies, not just in the same sector, but actually across different industry sectors,” he said. “It’s really to unlock the power of data and digital technology so we can achieve better economic, social and even human outcomes.”

Tam said of all the data that is collected throughout the world each day, less than 0.5 per cent of it is being used to help bolster the economy. Though some may argue businesses in the same field are unlikely to want to collaborate on research or share information, Tam says that’s not an issue.

“Many resource companies will tell you that the basis by which they’re competing is generally not about the data they’re collecting, it’s generally about how they’re interpreting the information and how they’re applying the strategies that they’re actually taking to market,” he said.

If B.C.’s forestry industry is not able to adapt to the supercluster model, where businesses and researchers share information freely, Tam said the province will slip further and further behind global competition, which could put the province in a dire position. “I think that’s one of the driving forces for why we’re pushing for this supercluster to be truly collaborative and successful.”

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