19 June 2019

The theme of TCI 2018, “Collaborating to Compete: Clusters in Action,” reflects not only the heart of cluster development (collaboration), but is also a call to action for those within the cluster ecosystem to share how clusters can jumpstart transformational changes that benefit both firms and communities (shared value). More importantly, attending is a rare opportunity to make “unexpected connections” (TCI 2018’s tagline) that are only possible when people from diverse industries and backgrounds come together in person.


Toronto, Canada is an incredibly diverse place. Very few cities can say that their citizens speak over 180 languages, are part of 240 ethnic groups, and that the majority (51%) are foreign-born. As a result, the talent within Toronto is one of its strongest assets, enabling firms to conduct global business with a multitude of cultures in various languages.


The Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity is excited to be hosting TCI 2018. We are a research organization that has compiled and analyzed publicly-available clusters data since 2001 through our Canadian Cluster Data Portal. As a long-time attendee of TCI Network Global Conferences, hosting TCI 2018 means drawing on the best of the past conferences.



For those who are familiar with the format of the global conferences, there will be the usual kinds of sessions: plenary keynotes and panels, interactive breakout sessions, and of course, cluster tours. However, there are some key differences that we as hosts are excited to bring those attending.


First, we are exploring sub-themes that are new to typical global conferences:

  • “Regional Economic Development and Inclusive Prosperity” will consider how clusters can help smaller regions join global supply chains and therefore compete globally.
  • “Mobilizing Talent and Diversity” will examine how to be more inclusive of groups that have not traditionally been part of economic development or are losing out in the global marketplace.
  • “Scaling up within a Cluster Ecosystem” will look at the role of entrepreneurs, innovators, and inventors working collaboratively to scale up, which is particularly important in a small economy like Canada’s.
  • “Designing Innovative Networks for Innovation” opens up the definition of network and explores how these networks can be catalysts for innovation.


Most importantly, expect to hear lots of stories at TCI 2018. According to our research, storytelling is an extremely effective tool to disseminate and share information and yet our lack of ability to tell a clear, concise, and consistent story about ourselves and our clusters makes global marketing efforts very hard.


Day 1 of TCI 2018 (Oct 16) is our “Experience” day when conference attendees will have the opportunity to participate in one of ten “cluster immersion experiences,” ranging from health care to emerging technology to clean tech and even design. Renaming cluster tours as cluster immersion experiences is our way of bringing delegates on the journey of a cluster—to learn their stories, grasp the available business opportunities, and to understand how actors collaborate within the cluster.


In the morning of Day 1 delegates will still visit a series of locations that illustrate the cluster story. However, after lunch, they will participate in a charrette—a workshop that uses design thinking to brainstorm solutions to challenges faced by the cluster. We hope that by working together, we can help provide some tangible solutions. Moreover, Day 1 is an opportunity to foster those unexpected connections and to share stories of the various like-clusters in other places around the world.


It is our goal at TCI 2018 to have our plenary speakers on  Day 2 (the “Engage” day) continue the conversation on how they engage with the sub-themes within the larger conference theme.


Finally, we will then invite our delegates to continue the conversation on Day 3 (the “Exchange” day). On Day 3, we will offer interactive breakout sessions across the four sub-themes that range from understanding cluster evaluation to cluster2cluster meetings that will help delegates foster business relationships with one another. While the standard session is a moderator-driven panel discussion that mirrors those of past conferences, the focus of every session is on audience participation and discussion.


Click here to submit your proposal for the #TCI2018!


Dorinda So, Research Director at the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity and organiser of the TCI 2018 Global Conference in Toronto.