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Is it possible to take on Silicon Valley?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Zimmytws / Shutterstock)

British Columbia’s tech sector is growing so fast, that hundreds of tech companies are searching for the right talent to fill vacant jobs as the industry’s growth outperforms all others in Canada, leading to world leading technology innovation.    

Here in British Columbia, the technology sector remains a top provincial performer and has grown to become a global technology hub, home to homegrown global technology unicorns including Slack, Avigilon, Hootsuite, alongside leading IoT and FinTech companies including Mojio, Canada Drives, EventBase and BTL. 

This success can be accredited to our #BCTECH Strategy, which is future-proofing the province. The strategy is an investment in our economy and youth, with initiatives to train and educate students so they are prepared for a more digitalized world. British Columbia’s tech sector is crucial in keeping B.C. competitive in the global market, and as a supportive government it is our job to provide those in the sector with the tools to grow.   

An important part of the #BCTECH Strategy is to grow B.C.’s tech sector, create jobs, develop talent, make it easier to do business with government, and attract significant venture capital. It’s a key component of the B.C. Jobs Plan to support the growth of British Columbia’s vibrant technology sector and strengthen B.C.’s diverse knowledge-based economy. The multi-year strategy includes a $100-million venture capital BC Tech Fund and initiatives to increase talent development and market access for tech companies that will drive innovation and job creation throughout the province. 

It should be noted that the #BCTECH Strategy is not limited to the tech sector due to technology being an integral part of our wider, growing, diverse and strong economy. The tech sector supports businesses throughout the province, from mining to forestry to tourism, and everything in between. Technology is essential to business today, so the stronger the sector is, the more competitive our other industries become.   

Technology doesn’t just support business or the economy; it supports our lives. Everything from education, entertainment, the environment and cutting-edge health treatments are strengthened by the latest developments in technology. Supporting the tech sector improves quality of life of our people and will ensure B.C. is a global contender across all sectors.   

The #BCTECH Strategy, which was developed in consultation with industry, focuses on three core pillars; capital, talent and markets.   

Minister Virk (right) tours the University of Victoria’s wave monitoring system at the West Coast Wave Lab, Victoria, B.C.

Minister Virk (right) tours the University of Victoria’s wave monitoring system at the West Coast Wave Lab, Victoria, B.C.

We will deepen the B.C. technology talent pool 

Technology companies need a solid talent base if they are to continue to grow their businesses, and with them, B.C.’s economy. We are re-engineering education, beginning at the earliest stages of school through to post-secondary, to ensure that students are getting not just the knowledge they need, but work experience and exposure to tech careers – especially at the post-secondary levels. We have introduced coding in school so that all of our students have the opportunity to learn coding by the age of 15.  We’ve also updated our science, technology, engineering and math curriculum so students are exposed to new learning standards.   

The B.C. government is making infrastructure investments with other partners to enhance tech training; a new energy systems engineering building in Surrey will accommodate proposed new degree programs in energy systems and environmental engineering, a new life sciences building at the University of British Columbia and a Wood Innovation Lab in Prince George are just some of the investments we’re making to ensure that the tech industry has the talent it needs to rise to new heights. 

The Provincial Nominee Program, B.C.’s only direct immigrant selection tool to attract global talent, has streamlined application assessment and introduced an online registration and application system, meaning we can attract talent to B.C. when local supply is tight. As a result, processing times for applications in the Skills Immigration stream now take only two to three months from date of receipt – a considerable improvement and among the best in the country. 

We will improve access to capital and continue to support our competitive tax system and research environment 

Early investment in a growing company can be the difference between success and failure. That’s why, after we conducted a venture capital review that sought input from close to 200 companies, agencies and experts in the field, we created the $100-million BCTECH Fund. It addresses the early-stage or “A-Round” funding gap and will focus on investments in digital media, information communications technology (ICT), life sciences/ health-care technology and clean technology. We offer business incentives, spurred on by provincial and national tax credits for tech companies.     

We will make it easier to access new markets 

In order to expand markets, we asked companies how we could help. They told us that smaller tech companies in particular need help navigating the export services available so they can access the financing they need, or ensure they are developing their products for the right markets. A new government pilot project, Export Navigator, helps growth-oriented businesses become successful, profitable exporters by providing them with access to community-based export advisors who will provide a personalized, step-by-step approach to exporting. From the moment a company considers exporting, to the time that they’ve successfully secured new customers overseas, we will ensure they have been connected to the appropriate programs and services at every stage of the export process. 

For the fifth year in a row, B.C. has seen significant growth in its diverse technology industry. We have more technology companies than ever, growing by 1.9% since 2015 to over 9,900 businesses, and we are home to 14% of Canada’s tech businesses. We have more technology workers, earning 75% higher wages than the Canadian technology sector average. Our #BCTECH Strategy is further creating the conditions that are helping the sector continue to grow and thrive. The tech sector produced approximately $26.3 billion in revenue in 2015, a rise of 5%. 

The year 2017 promises even more growth for British Columbia’s tech sector. We have the talent and the right business conditions to open doors to new opportunities for tech companies – both big and small. Their future is bright and we, the government, are here to help them succeed.   

Mixed reality truck design from Finger Food Studios, Port Coquitlam, B.C. with PACCAR from Renton, Washington, U.S.A.

Mixed reality truck design from Finger Food Studios, Port Coquitlam, B.C. with PACCAR from Renton, Washington, U.S.A.

The #BCTECH Strategy is an evolving program. As progress is benchmarked and consultations point us in new directions, so too, will the strategy change to reflect that direction. This work will be informed by short and mid-term indicators that will show the immediate economic impact of the #BCTECH Strategy on long-term indicators such as GDP and employment growth.   

As a result, we look forward to announcing new goals, and of course, more progress, at the next annual #BCTECH Summit in March this year. Great opportunities are here in B.C. – and with this strategy to guide our investments, our opportunities will only continue to grow. 

Honorable Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, British Columbia, Canada 

Image Credit: Zimmytws / Shutterstock

Amrik Virk
Amrik Virk was appointed as British Columbia’s Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services in 2014, previously serving as Minister of Advanced Education.