BIO 2016 Gowling WLG Luncheon


Speaking Points

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, PC, MP
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

San Francisco, California

June 6, 2016

Check Against Delivery


Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you to James Buchan [Firm Managing Partner, External, Gowling WLG] for the kind introduction.

And, of course, a big thanks to Gowling WLG for hosting us. I know you've been holding this luncheon for many years, and it shows in the level of professionalism involved and the strength of the Canadian life sciences sector. It is my pleasure to be here.

When I look around this room, I see how vibrant the Canadian life sciences industry is. We have representatives from major research and knowledge translation institutions, from Canadian biotech SMEs, and from some of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.

BIO is a great showcase for Canadian innovation. It is where we can focus on seizing the opportunities that are available thanks to our globally competitive strengths, while also learning how we can do even better—by striving to be even more innovative, if you will.

The Innovation Agenda

On that note, I am pleased to tell you that the Government of Canada is pursuing a bold approach to innovation. We are taking a leadership role that will involve a new way of doing things and making strategic investments.

The Prime Minister has asked me to lead on developing an innovation agenda that is partner-driven, is inclusive and has a shared sense of purpose. It will rely on collaboration among multiple players and on private and public partnerships, recognizing the importance of the international dimension to innovation.

Canada understands the need to place innovation at the centre of its economic plan to strengthen industrial capabilities, grow dynamic new globally oriented companies and generate quality jobs.

At its core, the Innovation Agenda will reflect our government's plans to redesign and redefine how we support innovation and growth, in partnership and coordination with the private sector; provinces, territories and municipalities; universities and colleges; and the not for-profit sector.

In doing so, we are developing a mix of short-, medium- and long-term goals that seek to really move the yardstick:

  • First, by making investments that will see quantum increases in the number of researchers and of skilled workers involved in new technologies;
  • Second, by promoting major increases in the amount of business R&D, business investment in IT, and Canadian R&D by global firms; and
  • Third, by targeting federal investments in world-leading super clusters and making Canada one of the friendliest regulatory environments for emerging technologies.

In the coming days, we will be launching an engagement strategy for the Innovation Agenda because we know that government is but one voice in this effort.

To be successful, this will be a whole-of-society initiative, requiring a fundamental shift in thinking.

Role of the Canadian Life Sciences Sector in the Innovation Agenda

Naturally, the life sciences sector will be a key contributor to this new approach to Canadian innovation.

Let me give you a sense of some early efforts that bear on your sector.

During the World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Trudeau and I discussed having a shared common approach to pursuing new innovation opportunities based on Canada's strengths in the health sector.

Earlier this year, I also had the honour to take part, with Prime Minister Trudeau, in the announcement of a $20-million commitment to support the development of manufacturing processes for regenerative medicine in Toronto at the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine.

This initiative is particularly illustrative of our approach to innovation as there are about 40 industry partners, including a major partnership with GE Healthcare, which is providing matching money. Michael, correct me if I don't have these numbers right [Michael May, CEO, Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine].

As part of our down payment on innovation, Budget 2016 provided support for health research, genomics, regenerative medicine, brain research and drug development. We also committed $800 million to support innovation networks and clusters. I expect the life sciences sector to provide some great advice on how we can go forward and build on these efforts.

And now we are here at BIO, the epicentre of leading-edge technologies, where Canadian companies and institutions are creating opportunities to strengthen their contribution to the innovation ecosystem in Canada by building partnerships with global life science companies.

Andrew, I expect a full report on the new partnerships that your BIOTECanada companies secure here at BIO [Andrew Casey, President, BIOTECanada].

Canadian Innovation Creating Opportunities for Global Investors

In fact, I expect that report to be lengthy. And the reason for that is because our country's life sciences industry is poised for growth and is well positioned for new investments, particularly in the areas of regenerative medicine, oncology, neurology, clinical trials and health innovation systems.

Let me toot our own horn here for a moment and talk about a few of Canada's unique strengths. We have a global reputation in health research. We have clinical trials expertise. We already account for between 4 and 6 percent of global clinical trials and hope to make the case over the next couple of days why this should increase. We have an impressive pipeline of drug candidates under development—third behind only the U.S. and U.K.

Furthermore, we have a strong pharmaceutical MNE (multinational enterprise) footprint of R&D and manufacturing facilities, strong pharmaceutical MNE investments in Canadian biotech firms and research institutions, and a health care system that has both strong national and regional components.

The numbers speak for themselves. Since 2010, investments of more than $1 billion in Canadian life science manufacturing sites have been announced, and those investments created more than 2,100 jobs.

Also during that period, venture capital (VC) investments in the Canadian life sciences industry have significantly increased, both in total amount—from $299 million to $647 million—and in the number of VC funds—from ten to seventeen. It is important to note that seven of the seventeen VC funds are foreign, including four supported by pharmaceutical MNEs.

The bottom line is that there are strategic opportunities in Canada for foreign investors to engage in long-term partnerships with Canadian innovators. We need to pursue those opportunities with all of our might.

And to complement your pursuits in this respect, there are several federal initiatives on life sciences, such as:

  • our involvement in CETA;
  • our efforts to improve the business environment to encourage more clinical trial investments; and
  • our globally competitive tax environment for life sciences firms, including one of the most generous R&D tax incentive programs in SR&ED.

I might be biased, but I'd say Canada has a pretty great thing going.


In closing, I'd like to reiterate the Government's support of this important sector. The life sciences community is a shining example of the major impact innovation has on our economy.

As we engage industry in our innovation agenda, I am counting on the people in this room to step up and voice their opinions.

Only together will we instill innovation as a core Canadian value. And only together will we have the strength to attract global players who want to be part of the Canadian opportunity.

Thank you again to Gowling for putting this event together. I wish all of you nothing but the best as you represent Canada at this prestigious convention.

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