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High Performance Clusters – Unleashing an Innovation Nation


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When setting up OpenRFP.net as an prototype example of Open Government, I was keenly motivated by a number of ideas from other sources, in particular Cisco’s ‘Next Generation Cluster’.

First, other ideas that went in included one that was the real ‘secret sauce’ – Forward Commitment Procurement. This is one of those magical “create something from nothing” formulas, because it simply leverages the huge weight of the existing procurement spending from government, as a means of purposely stimulating more innovation.

It was related to other key initiatives, like how to engender an ‘Innovation Nation‘. Since coming to Canada, where they have a renowned ‘D for Innovation’ crisis going on, it struck me just how ingenious and important these simple ideas are.

Next Generation Clusters

Governments being more proactive adopters of new products and services from local innovators is also a key message in the Cisco papers, where they also talk about leveraging traditional spending as an innovation input as well. Indeed so does the Canadian Government in their recommendations white paper.

This is achieved by using leading Cisco best practices as the reference model, what they call a ‘Next Generation Cluster’.

When setting out to implement economic stimulus programs, governments typically make use of Michael Porter’s cluster model, meaning they set up industry specific initiatives that (hopefully) foster profitable commercialization in that sector. One example of many of this effect is the Oceans Technology program for Newfoundland, where they’re setting out to exploit their geographic characteristics and oil exploration.

In ‘Next Generation Clusters (14-page PDF) Cisco proposes this concept can be upgraded for the 21st century, which principally means using online social media technologies and Open Innovation practices, globalizing the activity through virtual teams rather than a geographic limitation.

High Performance Innovation Nation

Cisco describe a number of important improvements on the model, all of which basically reflect global virtualization. Ie. Porters model originated from a pre-Internet mindset, and so is quite physical in its core approach, where it builds clusters at a geographic level.

In contrast a Next Generation Cluster utilizes all the tools available today, like social networks and video conferencing, to free them from this limitation. Clusters can now span from anywhere to anywhere, sharing new ideas and best practices at the speed of thought.

The best type of technology implementation that would underpin this can be seen through organizations like CANARIE in Canada. They’re government funded to implement ‘HPC’ Clouds, High Performance Computing.

How it can underpin an Innovation Nation campaign is best illustrated through their ‘DAIR’ project. In essence this is utilizing the CANARIE infrastructure to implement a Next Generation Cluster, one for high-tech innovation.

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