B.C. Tech Summit
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, PC, MP
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
Vancouver, British Columbia
March 15, 2017
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Thank you very much, Mike [Mike Agerbo of GetConnected TV and Blink Media], for that kind introduction.
Minister Virk, it is a pleasure to share the podium with you today.
I have been in B.C. for the past three days.
Every time I visit any part of this province, I am struck by the beauty of the natural landscape and I understand why British Columbians are so proud of their province.
On top of the natural beauty of B.C., I am also impressed by the calibre of people, ideas and companies that come from this province.
On Monday, I met with workers from Canfor and the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation, who are adapting new technologies to turn the forestry and auto industries on their head.
After that, I met with a group of young leaders who inspired me with their thoughts and ideas on how Canada can win the global innovation race.
Yesterday, I met with some incredible engineers and research scientists at UrtheCast—a company that is making a name for itself in Earth observation technologies.
And I got a chance to tour SFU VentureLabs with leaders from Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard. The work being done at this lab epitomizes the kind of innovation that Canada should be proud of.
We live in an era of tremendous challenge—but even more tremendous opportunity.
Ladies and gentlemen, if there’s only one message that I leave with you today, it’s this: Among developed countries, Canada has under-tapped opportunity for growth and investment.
The Government of Canada has a bold and focused plan to unleash our country’s potential for economic growth.
And the path to growth is through innovation.
To drive economic growth through innovation, our government has a plan to invest in people, support the development of emerging technologies and help companies grow beyond our borders.
These priorities are particularly important at a time when many parts of the world are turning inward and the global economy is mired in slow growth.
Among industrialized nations, Canada is arguably the best positioned to navigate this complex reality.
First, we have a highly educated population.
Among advanced economies, Canada has the highest proportion of university and college graduates.
In fact, our scientists and researchers are world leaders in turning their work into discoveries and inventions.
Equally important is the role our open society plays in welcoming and integrating newcomers.
Many of us, including my parents, have benefited from Canadians’ warm embrace of newcomers from all backgrounds.
The fact that, a generation after my parents’ arrival from India, I stand before you as a minister of the Crown reflects the opportunities that are open to newcomers and their children.
In return, Canada has benefited from the talent and hard work of generations of newcomers who contribute by creating jobs and prosperity.
We are a better country as a result.
Promoting an open society that values diverse ideas and perspectives is good for business.
And it’s essential for innovation.
Our government recognizes this.
That is why we are committed to developing the talents of our people and attracting the world’s top talent to Canada.
That is how our workforce will evolve and create entirely new jobs and industries that never existed before.
Or give existing industries a new lease on life by making them more productive and efficient.
Although we have a talented workforce, Canada has a relatively small population, which is why we rely on a robust immigration system to maintain the vitality of our workforce.
To bolster this, our government is implementing the Global Skills Strategy.
Starting on June 12, 2017, Canadian companies will have a means of recruiting highly trained people with in-demand skills through the Global Talent Stream, a key pillar of the Global Skills Strategy.
The Strategy targets a two-week standard for processing visas and two-week standard for processing work permits for low-risk, high-skill talent coming to Canada.
We know that bringing in top talent from around the world actually creates more jobs for Canadians.
One key hire can unlock many others. This critical mass of talent enables the start-up of new companies and the scale-up of others, which create more jobs for Canadians.
We are obviously very excited about this, and I know that you are as well.
I’ve heard from many of you in this room that bringing in top talent from around the world can actually create more Canadian jobs.
A perfect example right here in B.C. is Sony Pictures Imageworks.
This subsidiary of Japan’s Sony Corporation moved its headquarters to Vancouver and is now the largest visual effects company in town.
Its presence in Canada allows it to recruit the most talented graduates from our universities and colleges.
And Sony has created hundreds of new jobs in the process.
Talent is the lifeblood of our innovation system.
And it’s Canada’s biggest competitive advantage in a global innovation race.
Now, I know that one of this summit’s most exciting offerings is the Investment Showcase, a forum where promising companies pitch their value proposition so they can attract financing to grow and create jobs.
In many cases, the funding will help them take their ideas from the benchtop to the marketplace.
But how do we help those companies grow?
Canada has one of the world’s top entrepreneurial ecosystems—second in the world according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.
And over 70,000 new firms are created every year in Canada.
But we need to see more of them scale up into high-growth firms that create new jobs right here in Canada.
One of the most powerful tools we have here in British Columbia to help firms grow is the Western Innovation Initiative, or WINN.
It’s a five-year, $100-million initiative managed through Western Economic Diversification Canada.
WINN provides financing to help small and medium-sized businesses across Western Canada grow.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, it’s my pleasure to announce the latest round of WINN funding.
Twelve B.C.-based SMEs will share nearly $15 million to help get their products to market faster and more efficiently.
These include enhanced pharmaceutical discovery processes to combat major diseases, clean energy technologies to increase ecological sustainability, advanced IT systems to boost workplace efficiency and modernized communications systems to increase public transit safety.
This funding is crucial—not only for the amount of money being invested but for the larger regional impact it will have.
And speaking of clean technologies, this investment builds on another we have made in this emerging area for B.C.
On Monday, Minister Virk and I announced that our governments will provide $20 million each to support the development of pre-commercial clean energy projects and technologies.
The global clean tech industry is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2020.
We are happy to help make sure this province gets its share of that lucrative market.
Taken together, these announcements are good news for the people of British Columbia.
Where innovation happens matters because that’s where the high-quality jobs are located.
These funding packages will go a long way to helping B.C. companies thrive.
Also, we need to keep focused on ensuring our workforce has the skills and experience to meet the needs of these companies.
In the innovation economy, success will come to those who are constantly adapting and applying their skills to a wider scope of situations and experiences.
In a rapidly changing job market, what we know will be out of date sooner than we think.
But how we learn will set us up to manage a lifetime of rapid change in a global digital economy based on innovation.
Canadian workers in these new middle-class jobs—jobs that can’t easily be outsourced, digitized or automated—are learning specialized skills to develop goods and services that have a global market and can command globally competitive wages.
They are using their knowledge of local markets to meet the global demand for specific goods and services.
They are collaborating with teams from around the world to participate in global supply chains.
They are applying a human touch to personally delivered services, which are more highly valued than ever.
They are pairing disparate information and ideas—things that you would not logically think go together—to invent something new.
The jobs of the innovation economy will emerge from computer engineers and mathematicians working with biologists to turn large amounts of genetic information into life-saving drugs.
They will emerge from farmers collaborating with technicians to take advantage of new monitoring systems that help increase crop yields.
They will emerge from machine operators needing training to use advanced robotic systems to create automotive parts.
They will come from the forestry industry looking to harvest trees in a greener and more environmentally sustainable way.
They will come from energy producers developing alternative sources of fuel and chemicals from pulp and other wood products.
They will come from researchers using the building blocks of trees as inspiration to develop lighter and more durable materials that can be used for auto parts or bone replacements.
These are the areas where new jobs will emerge and create better opportunities, better health and a better future for all Canadians.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is British Columbia’s time. This is Canada’s time.
There is an opportunity in front of us.
We are assembling the building blocks of the economy of the future.
If we can win this global race to innovate, all of us will profit.
I look forward to working with British Columbians as we promote innovation for a better Canada.
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