Technology sector bolsters province’s reputation for innovation

The message from the editor in Business in Vancouver’s 2019 BC Tech magazine (“Funding Cuts Represent Artificial Intelligence) described B.C.’s tech sector as “fragile and skittish.” In fact, the opposite is true. The province’s tech sector is booming and shows no signs of slowing down.

In 2018, the B.C. tech sector employed 114,000 people (not 14,000 as cited in the editor’s note) – an increase of nearly 6,000 people in just one year. In addition, the number of businesses in the sector has grown by 3.5% over last year to more than 10,500.

The strength of B.C.’s tech sector is, in part, attributed to those who proudly stand in support of the sector and commit themselves to its advancement. Our government has a keen interest in supporting these organizations. For example, we provided $500,000 in one-time funding to the BC Tech Association in December 2018 to help support program operations.

B.C. is fertile ground for tech startups and international companies, such as Apple, Amazon, Fortinet and Fujitsu Intelligence Technology, which recently expanded into British Columbia. The establishment of these companies and others reinforces B.C.’s reputation as a global hub of innovation.

The province is home to some of the top clean-tech companies in the world. For the second consecutive year, eight B.C. companies made the 2019 Global clean-tech 100 list. To further enhance B.C.’s competitiveness in this sector, we recently formed a partnership with Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Centre and Western Economic Diversification Canada to launch a B.C. clean-tech cluster initiative.

To help bolster the tech sector even more, we are working with post-secondary institutions to build a strong foundation of talent. For example, through the planned investment of $42 million in ongoing annual funding, we are adding 2,900 new tech seats at B.C. post-secondary institutions that will produce 1,000 additional tech grads a year by 2023. We are also investing $10.5 million in tech co-op opportunities and entrepreneurial training through our Crown agency Innovate BC.

We are committed to advancing the sector’s prosperity and growth through investments and programs like the small-business venture capital tax credit, which has been modernized to allow businesses to raise twice as much under the program. We also provide other tax incentives to businesses, including the interactive digital media tax credit, now extended to 2023.

Investment is key to driving the tech sector forward.

We are investing $112 million in innovative research equipment at post-secondary institutions around the province through the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund. In addition, the BC Tech Fund continues to be a critical investment tool that helps promising B.C. companies scale and grow. To date, roughly $60 million of the $100 million fund has been committed to B.C. startups.

We remain committed to supporting the tech sector, an industry that supports families around the province and promotes economic prosperity for all British Columbians.

Bruce Ralston is B.C.’s minister of jobs, trade and technology.