By Christine Little, Assistant Deputy Minister of Small Business, Job and Workforce in the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness at the Province of B.C.
On April 20, British Columbia released Budget 2021, which extends StrongerBC programming and continues to grow innovation by putting people first, investing in business transformation and leveraging innovation to support the province’s sustainability and inclusion objectives.
While StrongerBC is focused on providing immediate economic relief, these investments also position the province for recovery followed by economic growth, which will require a strong focus on innovation. This is evidenced in programs that harness innovation to strengthen value creation from B.C.’s natural resources, including mass timber demonstration and agritech.
StrongerBC provides flexible supports for businesses to identify and adopt the innovations they need to support competitiveness and productivity. These include digital marketing initiatives, grants to small and medium sized businesses to help pivot operations, PST exemptions to help support capital acquisitions, and the $500 million InBC investment fund. This fund will help innovative businesses access capital and grants for manufacturers that are producing value added goods and commercially ready products for new and emerging markets.
Budget 2021 also includes new investments that are critical to maintaining the upward trajectory of the innovation economy in alignment with the Province’s values including inclusiveness and sustainability.
- Affordable and inclusive childcare, which responds to feedback received from all sectors and regions of the economy. Childcare has been described as an enabling tool and essential to helping the tech sector address talent shortages and diversity and inclusion objectives.
- Skills training and hiring programs that provide funding to retrain and hire youth, under-represented people and British Columbians seeking their first job in the tech sector. This includes $7 million provided to the Digital Technology Supercluster to extend the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator program and responds to feedback about talent being a significant barrier to growth. These programs will also provide more pathways for British Columbians to access post secondary education.
- $130 million in funding committed since September 2020 to provide high-speed internet and cellular coverage for more rural and remote communities, including Indigenous communities.
- Over $500 million in CleanBC investments to reduce emissions, invest in clean energy and cleantech, and prepare for climate change. This includes:
- using innovation to develop cleaner vehicles;
- additional investment in the Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy to create a pipeline of new opportunities B.C and the world will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and,
- other cleantech investments to expand partnership opportunities with the federal government.
Budget 2021 is an important step towards growing the innovation economy and will be followed by an updated economic plan to help grow jobs, drive competitiveness and help B.C.’s innovative businesses scale-up and access new markets with world-leading products and services.