In 2002, a major exercise was undertaken to mobilize and coordinate activities aimed at developing the life sciences sector in the Montréal metropolitan area. These efforts culminated in the creation of the first cluster to be recognized by the Québec and Canadian governments: the life sciences cluster. This cluster promotes innovation and the knowledge economy to help build the economy of the 21st century. The same approach was then used for the information technology sector. Private, institutional and public stakeholders mobilized to create a master plan using a metropolitan cluster approach.
Furthermore, in the fall of 2003, the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM), with the support of the Ministère des Affaires municipales, du Sport et du Loisir (MAMSL) and the Ministère du Développement économique et régional et de la Recherche (MDERR), launched a project to identify and map metropolitan industrial clusters. This move was the first phase of a larger scale project aimed not only at developing, but actually implementing an integrated innovation and economic development strategy for the entire region over the following years.
The first phase produced an overview of existing industrial clusters, enabling the CMM to identify 15 in all. Cluster stakeholders must eventually mobilize to conduct a study of the region’s positioning on the international market, which will include benchmarking to measure the metropolitan clusters’ level of competitiveness against similar regions. Once a consensus has been reached on a cluster’s development plan, the task of co-ordinating this plan can be assigned to a cluster secretariat.
Cluster secretariats bring together companies, business associations, sector-based workforce committees from Emploi-Québec, the provincial and federal governments and research and educational institutions to encourage new types of partnerships among these partners. A secretariat is composed of key players from the sector, who are nominated by fellow industry members.
The secretariat leads and coordinates these players to reach a consensus on the issues facing the cluster and determine the appropriate response. Designed to be both flexible and dynamic, this secretariat encourages collective action and complementarities among the various organizations that make up clusters, so as to avoid duplication, overlap and, above all, the creation of new structures.
It must organize working groups, activate them and ensure that they propose concrete solutions for the issues they study. These solutions are then taken over and carried out by the stakeholder members of the secretariat. The secretariat's role is to support the members of the cluster as they carry out the development plan, whose objective is to improve the cluster's growth and competitiveness within the metropolitan region.