Innovation for a Better Canada


Speaking Points

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

Toronto, Ontario

December 12, 2016

Check Against Delivery

Thank you, Jerel, for your kind introduction.

Good morning, everyone.

I'm delighted to be here to celebrate the birth of an exciting new company.

This new company is being supported by one of the largest first-round investments of venture capital ever seen in the world.

How we arrived at this milestone says a lot about the innovation process—and about the role of government in growing the economy through innovation.

Canadian scientists are world-renowned for their research into how stem cells can be used to repair damaged tissue.

The considerable investment being made today is proof of that expertise.

It shows how publicly funded research can be turned into potentially transformative technologies.

These technologies can lead to the creation of new companies that attract global investment.

These technologies, like stem-cell therapies that have the potential to repair damaged hearts and brains, can also create markets that didn't exist before.

Stem-cell therapies hold the promise of saving lives as well as improving them.

They also create better jobs for Canadians.

That's how innovation makes a better Canada.

Innovation starts with the creativity and ingenuity of people—in this case, two Canadian doctors named James Till and Ernest McCulloch.

They first discovered stem cells in 1961 while working for the Ontario Cancer Institute.

Till and McCulloch are not household names, but they should be.

Their discovery provided a knowledge base for generations of scientists—in Canada and around the world—to build on.

Since Till and McCulloch's discovery more than 50 years ago, government has played a key role in advancing stem-cell research.

The Prime Minister and I were here at the beginning of the year.

At that time, we announced support for G.E. Healthcare and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine.

This centre is a consortium of industry and academic partners that brings promising stem-cell research to market.

The Government of Canada has also supported Medicine by Design at the University of Toronto.

This program explores ways of regenerating cells, tissues and organs.

But for research to move beyond labs and into clinics where it can actually make a difference in people's lives, a lot of money—and patience—is needed.

There, too, the Government of Canada has played a role.

Three years ago, Versant Ventures expanded from the U.S. into Canada after receiving support from the Venture Capital Action Plan, a federal program that uses public investment to attract additional venture capital from the private sector.

Since its arrival in Canada, Versant Ventures has launched seven new companies.

In total, these companies have attracted more than $300 million from other investors and partners. 

Today's announcement contributes significantly to Versant's impressive track record.

It's a great example of the private sector stepping up to take publicly supported research to the marketplace.

And that investment creates real and tangible benefits for Canadians.

At its most basic, innovation is about making things better in ways that benefit everyone: better jobs, better opportunities, better health, better living standards and a better future.

In countries that owe their economic growth to innovation, governments play an active role in nurturing that success.

Today, other countries are doing more and moving faster than Canada.

Let's be clear about what's at stake: Canada is in a global innovation race.

We are competing with countries around the world for the most talented people, the newest technologies and the fastest-growing companies.

Jobs and prosperity will go to the countries that get those three things right.

Over the past year, I've had the privilege of talking to Canadians from all walks of life.

I've listened to your hopes and dreams for you and your families.

But I've also heard about your concern that our country's best days are behind us and that after decades of rising living standards, you no longer feel secure enough about your own future.

You no longer believe that you can pass on the gains you have made to your children and grandchildren.

These concerns are rooted in fact.

They reflect how slow economic growth, which is happening in advanced countries around the world, is felt in every household.

Larger bills, less savings and more debt: that's how middle-class families have struggled just to maintain what they have.

That being said, Canadians are optimistic and resilient.

You told us that government has a role in helping Canadians adapt and thrive.

You also told us that we can do better to ensure that all Canadians—not just a few—benefit from a growing economy driven by innovation.

Here's another area where you have told us we could do better.

Canadians start more than 70,000 new companies every year.

But building an economy driven by innovation requires having the next generation of globally competitive companies.

We are not as strong at scaling up our start-ups and keeping the well-paying jobs that they create in Canada.

In other countries, governments use their purchasing power—as the single largest buyer of goods and services—to help companies scale up.

The entrepreneurs that I've heard from wonder why Canada can't do the same thing.

They tell me it makes a huge difference to have the Government of Canada as a marquee customer when they go abroad in search of new clients.

Our government can be a meaningful partner in this area.

We can set aside a portion of our 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 government programs to make it easier and faster for start-ups to take their innovations from the lab to the market.

There's another theme that came up consistently in our conversations with Canadians.

It involves harnessing emerging technologies to achieve big things.

The role of government in this area goes far beyond simply funding research.

Government can set big-horizon goals, like fighting climate change, and target resources in specific areas of research to fulfill that mission.

Government can act as a broker between the public and private sectors to shape the new markets created by mission-driven research.

Our government has taken bold action in this area as well.

We have earmarked $800 million over the next four years to strengthen innovation networks and clusters.

These investments would focus on key platform technologies that will drive growth across industries in areas where Canada has the potential to show global leadership.

We can create and shape the markets that have the potential to unlock a world of opportunity for everyone.

That's how we will create the jobs of tomorrow that grow the middle class.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate everyone involved in today's announcement.

You are driving innovation for a better Canada.

Thank you.

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