Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, PC, MP
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
September 20, 2016
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Thank you, Greg [D'Avignon, President and CEO, Business Council of British Columbia], for that generous introduction.
Special greetings to the Honourable Christy Clark, Premier of British Columbia, and to Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington, who is also here.
And a warm welcome to all our American guests.
If you are from Seattle, you will find plenty here in Vancouver that reminds you of home.
Both are dynamic coastal cities that are culturally vibrant and buzzing with innovation.
Both have great schools and progressive public policies.
You will find Vancouverites an educated group. They are fuelled by that same sense of ambition that powers Seattle's high-tech hub.
In many ways, people in Vancouver and Seattle have the same energy coursing through their veins.
I'm talking, of course, about Starbucks coffee.
But seriously, we have much in common and the potential for so much more.
And that's why we've come together today.
A big thanks to the event sponsors—the Business Council of British Columbia, the Washington Roundtable and, of course, Microsoft—for putting this event together.
It's a pleasure to be here on behalf of the Government of Canada.
I see Brad Smith—of course, Microsoft is a great partner of ours.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was just in Vancouver recently with Brad.
They joined Premier Clark at the grand opening of this excellence centre [Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre].
Congratulations on that achievement.
Microsoft's belief in technology as a means to improve people's lives is very much in line with our government's approach.
We also think that everyone, everywhere, should be able to enjoy the benefits of technology and innovation.
That is the spirit motivating the inclusive Innovation Agenda—our government's plan to harness the power of innovation to create well-paying jobs, drive growth across industries and improve the quality of life of all.
In the past, Canada relied on increased trade and high commodity prices to boost the economy during periods of weakness.
But today, Canada and other advanced economies face new pressures.
Global companies are becoming local competitors.
Technology is transforming how we work, play and learn.
Our population is aging and people are retiring.
And climate change is reshaping the ways we meet our energy needs.
In the face of these challenges, low growth does not have to be our destiny. Not in Canada. Not in the United States.
We don't have to accept these pressures as limitations.
We can see them as opportunities and seize the future.
Power of partnership
The Innovation Agenda seeks to double down on our key strengths.
It seeks to build new partnerships and make the most of existing ones.
For example, we already have strong technology clusters in Canada.
We see the dynamic aerospace cluster in Montréal.
There are also renowned high-tech and life sciences networks in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto.
And I don't have to remind anyone here today that Vancouver boasts a world-class ICT sector.
Over 9,000 tech firms with 84,000 workers call this city home.
There's Hootsuite, the world's most widely used platform for managing social media accounts.
I'm also thinking of Avigilon, one of Canada's fastest-growing firms. It designs and builds surveillance software and equipment.
There's also a thriving video game and visual effects industry in Vancouver.
The other critical part of that ecosystem is Vancouver's research strength.
The University of British Columbia regularly ranks among the world's top knowledge institutions.
And Simon Fraser University has one of the top computer science programs in the world.
Both have strong entrepreneurship programs that help get ideas to market faster.
The picture I'm painting here is of Vancouver's virtuous cycle of invention, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Thanks to this, we have already seen cross-border collaboration grow in this region.
This type of partnership drives innovation. It shows the benefits of working together in pursuit of common goals.
Our government is betting heavily on networks—or innovation clusters—as part of the Innovation Agenda.
Translating our science and technology strengths into globally competitive companies means that the private sector, knowledge institutions, governments and others must work together more strategically.
That's why our most recent budget devoted $800 million to supporting innovation networks and clusters.
We will make a small number of high-value investments to build critical mass and national communities. We will focus on defined areas of emerging technologies—ones in which Canada has the potential to show global leadership.
I'm currently engaging with stakeholders and industry leaders on the specifics of this initiative.
The next critical piece of the innovation puzzle is talent.
I cannot overstate the need for people with the right skills and experience to drive innovation.
The key is to develop a talent pool that is broad and deep.
To start, we need more people in science, technology, engineering and math.
We must ignite a real passion for the STEM careers.
We need more women, more youth, more Indigenous people.
We need all those voices.
Because good ideas can come from anyone, anywhere.
I see diversity and inclusion as not just a moral duty.
These values are good for business as well.
We also need to redefine how we develop talent.
In that respect, I am excited that, starting this year, students in B.C. will learn to code as part of their school curriculum.
Premier Clark, I congratulate you on this pioneering and visionary policy.
As far as I'm concerned, learning to code is as important today as learning to read and write English or French.
I say this as the Minister of Innovation and as the father of two girls, who are six and eight.
The Government of Canada also believes university and college students should have access to more work-integrated learning.
Programs such as internships, apprenticeships and co-ops should be expanded across the country.
These programs would help students integrate more quickly into the workforce after they graduate.
Meanwhile, people who are already in the workforce should have more opportunities for continuous learning.
Mid-career workers, right up to the senior management ranks, should have the most up-to-date skills and knowledge.
That's how they will make successful career transitions, especially into jobs that don't even exist today.
And that's how we'll help our firms become globally competitive.
We also need to attract more of the brightest people from around the world.
To that end, we understand the importance of speeding up visa approvals for highly skilled professionals in some sectors.
The Government stands ready to be a meaningful partner in this area.
We are also aware of critical gaps in the growth cycle that government can help bridge.
Some relate to accessing growth capital, and others to accessing customers and markets.
In Canada, our companies excel at starting up, but they need to improve when it comes to scaling up.
One potential solution is to use government's purchasing power—as the single largest buyer of goods and services—to help companies grow.
Entrepreneurs tell me it makes a huge difference to have the federal government as a marquee customer when they go abroad in search of new clients.
Again, there is an opportunity for us to be a meaningful partner here.
We can set aside a portion of government resources to support start-ups with the most innovative solutions.
We can provide these high-potential companies with the testing ground they need to refine their products and services.
And we can streamline our programs to make it easier for start-ups to take their innovations from the lab to the market.
Canada also has room for improvement when it comes to harnessing emerging technologies to achieve big things.
To that end, we have provided the biggest boost in history to our granting councils to support discovery research at Canadian post-secondary institutions.
We are also investing $2 billion in the renewal of university and college campuses across the country.
In fact, yesterday I announced $40 million for UBC under this program.
But we also believe that government has a role to play when it comes to shaping new markets.
We can set big-horizon goals and target resources in specific areas of research to fulfill that mission.
We can act as a broker between the public and private sectors to shape the new markets created by this type of mission-driven research.
With that in mind, we recently announced $900 million to support cutting-edge research.
I'm talking ocean and marine science—in which we have comparative strength internationally—brain science and big data, quantum technologies and, of course, clean tech.
These are fields in which Canada can lead the world.
Speaking of clean technologies, just yesterday I was pleased to announce $45 million in further support for innovative green technologies across the country.
One of the recipients was Vancouver's own DarkVision Technologies.
These folks are developing imaging technologies for oil and gas wells.
Imagine how these technologies could help oil companies make quick decisions to reduce environmental impact, increase production and reduce cost.
Clean tech is an industry that some say will be worth up to $3 trillion worldwide by 2020.
Canada must lead in this emerging and increasingly competitive market.
Our government believes in the power of working together, of pooling resources, of each actor playing a role in the service of a common goal.
Between our two countries are countless examples of cross-border cooperation that leads to great success.
The Canada–U.S. Free Trade Agreement is one example.
This agreement grew into NAFTA, the single most successful economic arrangement the world has ever known.
There is power in partnership. History bears it out.
That's why we are putting so much effort into creating meaningful working relationships today.
The North American Competitiveness Council, for example, is leading on integration initiatives between Canada and the U.S.
The North American trusted traveller program continues to roll out. This program streamlines the border-crossing process for low-risk, frequent travellers.
Another example is the Pacific Northwest Economic Development Council. For over 50 years, it has been forging partnerships throughout the entire region.
All these examples highlight what can be achieved when we work together.
So I am very supportive of efforts to build collaborative working relationships between Seattle and Vancouver.
It's a promising strategy to create even more exciting opportunities for the future.
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