The Innovation Opportunity:  A Look Ahead on BC’s Priorities

It’s no accident that our Supercluster was founded in British Columbia.  With an ever-growing community of technology and tech-driven businesses, we have one of the most exciting digital ecosystems in the world.

Recently, the B.C. government presented the province’s 2022 budget and its updated StrongerBC Economic Plan. Both the budget and the economic plan promise back bold actions to build a B.C. economy that is sustainable, innovative and inclusive – with mission-oriented goals set around solving urgent issues that have a triple bottom-line impact aligned to people, planet and prosperity. 

Innovation investment plays an essential role in these plans, with support focused in areas such as cleantech, life-sciences, agritech, manufacturing and high-speed internet connectivity. As well, the government is investing in the rapid upskilling and reskilling of talent that can fill the anticipated one million job vacancies forecasted over the next decade. In addition to fighting the pandemic ($3B) and supporting climate-related disaster recovery ($2.1B), there is notable innovation investment being made in the following 5 key areas: 

1. Life Sciences

With over 2000 companies employing 18,000 people the province is boosting our life-sciences sector through the creation of a worldwide life-sciences and biomanufacturing hub. Digital Supercluster members that could benefit from and participate in the hub include B.C. companies such as  Variational AI, Synthesis Health and Clarius Mobile Health. A further $195M in grant funding will be provided to Genome BC and Michael Smith Health Research BC (in addition to the $200M in grants received this year).

2. Agriculture

With more than 150 companies developing and using technologies to boost productivity, sustainability and food security, the province has committed to establishing an Agritech Centre of Excellence to help with research and development, commercialization and mentorship. This is great news for B.C. agritech companies such as Terramera and i-Opentech.

3. Connectivity

The B.C. provincial budget commits more than $289 million over five years to expanding high-speed internet connectivity and cell service, connecting over 280 remote and rural Indigenous communities such as the Coastal First Nations which has partnered with the Supercluster to train members of their communities for technology leadership positions that support connectivity. This will support social and economic development by helping people get online for work, school, health care, services and business.

4. SME Funding

The InBC Investment Corporation will be ramping up, an independent $500M strategic investment fund that was created by the BC government to help promising companies grow and focus on environmental, economic and social impact. This fund will aid small and medium-sized B.C. businesses to scale faster. 

5. Preparing B.C. residents for the jobs of the future

When it comes to investing in the BC talent strategy, programs such as “Future Ready: Skills for the Jobs of Tomorrow” will help reskill, upskill and fill the anticipated one million job vacancies forecasted over the next decade. A $67M funding injection focuses on health-care assistants, skilled trades and early-childhood educators.  

There are also efforts outlined to help B.C.’s high-tech sector overcome the tech talent crunch. The B.C. government has pledged to create 2,000 tech-relevant spaces in public post-secondary institutions and provide more graduate scholarships and internships for innovation, among other initiatives. The province will also contribute $136.6 million toward a planned Trades and Technology Complex at BCIT.

Programs such as the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator, being delivered in partnership with the province of B.C., the Digital Supercluster, Microsoft Canada, NPower Canada and Blueprint, will see as many as 2000 British Columbians aged between 17 and 30, graduate as junior IT analysts and junior data analysts. This program gives priority to under-represented people including Indigenous, Black, people of colour (IBPOC), women, 2SLGBTQ+ people, immigrants and people living with disabilities.

Securing the future of B.C.’s economy

At the Digital Supercluster, we are proud to be partnering with the B.C. government and investing in B.C. companies willing to rise to the challenges of providing a higher level of healthcare closer to home, building B.C.’s low-carbon future, protecting people and communities from climate-related disasters, closing the digital divide and creating an inclusive, sustainable and connected economy that works for more people.  

We remain committed to helping the B.C. government build a stronger society, build a stronger environment and build a stronger economy by investing in healthcare innovation, green technologies, and BC’s workforce.