When it comes to economic development, Canada has long faced the twin challenges of density and scale. Clusters are supposed to help solve that, by bringing together researchers, commercial operators, entrepreneurs and investors, with a clear purpose and bold ambition.

In 2018, Ottawa set out to build a new model through a “supercluster initiative” that earmarked $950 million over five years for five major collaborations to lay a new Canadian foundation in oceans (Halifax), AI and supply chains (Montreal), advanced manufacturing (southern Ontario), proteins (Saskatoon) and digital technologies (Vancouver). Another $60 million was added in the recent federal budget.

The…


The pandemic has taught many of us to work in isolation. The recovery will require us to work in teams like never before.

The world is too complex, and changing too fast, for us to keep going on our own. Even the lone genius can’t solve today’s challenges.

Just ask Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft and a big thinker on the future of work.

“To get anything meaningful done, you have to be able to work in teams,” Nadella told a forum of Canadian students, educators and employers.

He points to the demand for business apps that’s greater than…


We’re in a new golden age of storytelling, and it’s one that will be co-authored by creator, audience and machine.

The pandemic has helped remind us how we’re a storytelling species; witness the binging boom on Disney+ and Netflix. But unlike previous eras, our new stories come in the form of videos and social posts, as well as novels and movies, and may be never-ending in their flow as audiences and creators collaborate in a new human narrative.

“It’s not just the content itself, it’s about the connection,” says Allen Lau, co-founder and CEO of Wattpad, a Toronto-based startup that…


More than 350,000 Indigenous youth were born in Canada in the first decade of the 21stcentury. This new generation enjoys better access to education and technology than any before, but also faces unique economic barriers as it enters a workforce profoundly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Canada, the potential benefits, and risks, are enormous. The Indigenous population has been growing at four times the rate of the non-Indigenous population, and today more than half of First Nations and Inuit people are under the age of 30. Even before the pandemic, though, their economic pathways were broken. …


In 1837, Thornton Blackburn, an escaped slave, launched Toronto’s first taxi company, and turned The City into a thriving enterprise that generated a small fortune for Blackburn and his wife Lucie — and yet somehow has been forgotten to history. More than 180 years later, most Canadians would be pressed to cite the Blackburns or name a single black entrepreneur. Even though 1.2 million Canadians identify as black, representing 3.5% of the population, a Black in Canada survey found only 2,000 black-owned businesses of significant scale. (It’s not just a Canadian problem. In 2018, a U.S. …


There will be plenty of big names in Davos this week, from Donald Trump and Prince Charles to Greta Thunberg and Will.i.am. But if the spotlight focusses on one subject, it may be a more inanimate figure: the corporation.

The World Economic Forum is launching its 50th session in Davos this week, and as the WEF concedes, the most powerful economic instrument in history — the corporation — is facing questions like never before.

Is this a midlife crisis for the multinational? …


We need bold new ideas to tackle climate change, and two dozen of them were put to the test, Dragons’ Den-style, in Ottawa this week.

At the Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada Forum 2020, up-and-coming Canadian clean tech companies demonstrated just how close we are to some major tech breakthroughs that could bend the arc of carbon emissions globally.

Think about a new powertrain technology to allow batteries for electric vehicle fleets to charge much faster. Havelaar Canada is working to do just that with Ford, Bell Canada and Purolator.

Or consider finding a way to make concrete much more carbon…


Agriculture may be one of Canada’s oldest sectors, but a new generation is keen to make it young again.

From more farm-friendly restaurants to tech-savvy farms, a growing movement of millennials are aiming to make the 2020s a decade of transformation in Canadian agriculture.

I led a discussion with three of them at the Arrell Food Summit in Toronto, which was designed to explore ways Canada can lead a more sustainable approach to food production in the 2020s, as part of a bigger mission to feed a world of 9 billion people. …


For most Canadians, the 2010s began with a bang, when Sidney Crosby scored the Golden Goal at the Vancouver Olympics.

The decade is wrapping up with a very different kind of championship held in the same arena. The Dota 2 tournament — the Super Bowl of electronic gaming — in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena and ensuing launch of a local pro esports team are just the latest indications of how much society, and the skills economy, can move in a decade.

From goal scorer to global gamer.

Few might have predicted such a change, or the massive surge in software jobs…


Canada’s new electoral map shows a country divided over the politics of energy. Can we use that energy to unite us instead?

The next few months will help answer that question, and will be among the most critical in decades as we try to find ways to cross the red, blue, orange and green lines we’ve drawn.

As fraught as it seems, this is a historic moment for a global energy power like Canada to transform the way we produce, ship and consume energy in all its forms to not only reduce our carbon footprint but show the world what’s…

john stackhouse

Senior Vice-President, Office of the CEO, Royal Bank of Canada john.stackhouse@rbc.com

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