A Culture of Innovation Powers BC Tech Members Across Sectors

The pandemic. Climate change. Supply chain disruptions. For many, such contemporary realities can stand in the way of anything resembling business optimism. Yet, for leaders in BC’s technology industry, they are merely challenges waiting for solutions. But what makes the difference? Is it luck or something more? Those attending BC Tech’s #WhatWorks Industry Innovation – Organizational Readiness panel learned there’s much more than happenstance behind the navigation of today’s business realities.

Moderator Andrew Marchant, Accenture’s Location Managing Director for Vancouver/Pacific, explored the role of innovation and technology with three top leaders: David Hargreaves from Seaspan, Lynette DuJohn from YVR, and Dave Cummings with Finning.

“Our innovation thrust is really around things like digital twins and digital ships,” noted Hargreaves in explaining how some mistakenly think that Seaspan Shipyards, being a shipbuilding company, is not really technology based. “Ships have a huge amount of technology on board them. And then there’s how we design and build them. We are very, very focused on using digital technologies that support how we build them – more efficiently and more effectively.”

Traditional companies have become technology companies, something echoed by Finning’s Dave Cummings. He said while many think of Finning as the company that sells the big yellow pieces of equipment, there is more untapped potential for customers if technology is used to increase productivity. As for added benefits, tech enables better safety systems and more environmentally friendly protocols. Simply put – it’s about putting the technology to work.

“The real journey has not been about invention and technology, it’s finding ways to apply what is there in different ways to our business model, and to our customers’ business models.”

If ships and tractors are embracing a culture of adoption, what about airports? Lynette DuJohn discussed YVR’s challenge in getting a very operationally focused organization to shift its thinking toward helping people employ technology to solve problems. It’s a way of thinking that extends beyond moving planes and now has extended to YVR’s own climate change innovations.

“How do we calculate the number of GHGs that are being emitted on the airfield? I use that as an example for partnerships through the Innovation Hub – we’re looking for those partners, whether they’re in higher education, tech startups or just companies that want to create something bigger than the airport itself,” explained DuJonn.

That shift in culture at YVR was adopted at a pivotal point over the past few 48 months. Decisions had to be made at a time when it could have been easier to retreat and wait for passengers to come back after the pandemic.

“We did not do that,” admitted DuJohn. “We saw a number of things change during the pandemic and one was awareness around climate. As an industry, we play a significant role in the amount of GHGs that are emitted so we put forward a plan to be net zero by 2030.”

While that target was set for the airport itself, the leadership extended to a much larger industry role. YVR identified an approach centered on using technological advances with its assets on Sea Island. “We’re looking at our land and how we leverage it to move some of those climate initiatives. Reducing the time that trucks idle, getting planes to leave on time and moving passengers through the terminal – it all helps with reducing GHGs and cutting costs.”

In that sense, the airport reimagined itself as a climate focused, innovation leader by zeroing in on a need and being nimble enough to shift with the times. In fact, all three leaders identified ambitious approaches that embrace current challenges. Traditional organizations succeed by adapting and understanding the value of tech.

“B.C. is seen as a heaven and safe place to grow innovative companies. We are attracting ideas but not exporting them out because there’s still a lack of government support,” observed Marchant in a notable call to action. “Local companies are driving innovation and leveraging B.C.’s foundational companies in order to scale. It’s how we face some of the most important challenges around things like sustainability and climate change.”

Reflected in this culture is the tenacity to prove what is possible. It’s at the heart of innovation. The aspiration and determination found in B.C.’s ecosystem powers a hope for the future. The words heard from this panel ring true as BC Tech announces the opening the Technology Impact Awards, including the Industry Innovation award, highlighting innovative companies across sectors, sponsored by Accenture.

BC Tech has also announced a new award category: GameChanger – Climate Leadership recognizing companies who has gone above and beyond to make a positive – indeed game changing – difference to advancing Climate Solutions in British Columbia.

The TIAs celebrate outstanding companies and individuals who have made a significant impact on the BC tech industry. Award categories and application details are available on the BC Tech website.