B.C. Innovation Can Lead the World

25 Years of Innovation

Originally posted in the Vancouver Sun.

In technology, 25 years is an eternity. In 1993 there were no smartphones, the web was brand new, and we were heading to A&B Sound to buy CDs and cassettes.

The BC Tech Association is celebrating 25 years of innovation. While technology tools have come and gone, the innovation that drives our industry remains the same. What do you need to create a thriving innovation ecosystem? Problems to solve and limited resources.

With a small population in a vast, rugged land, in B.C. we’ve had to be problem solvers by nature.

Before there was a British Columbia, First Nations on the coast turned cedar tree roots into watertight baskets, its bark into fishing nets, and its boughs into medicines. More recently, B.C. was home to the invention of the caulking gun, the walkie-talkie, and the egg carton. Today’s entrepreneurs are just the latest in a long line of local innovators.

The spirit of innovation lives on in our vibrant tech sector that uses the latest technology to do good. More than 105,000 British Columbians are working in the tech sector, and another 50,000 work in tech careers in other sectors.

Their work in technology is strengthening our healthcare and education systems, and it’s making our resource sector more competitive and environmentally sustainable. In government services, in banking, and in retail, tech is helping people connect.

Tech drives about seven percent of our economy. We’re highly ranked for our connectivity to the rest of the globe, and our tech players are strong in rapidly adapting to emerging trends. But there are challenges too. It’s hard to keep up with the sector’s growth and the possibility of 30,000 jobs going unfilled by 2021 puts us at risk of falling behind. B.C. needs many more large, home-grown companies that are global players. These anchor companies are the foundation of a strong ecosystem, fueling sustained growth and creating new spin-offs as they expand.

All these challenges are surmountable, if we have the ambition and determination to work together to tackle them. Now is the time to be bold and BC Tech is ready and willing to work across our sector and with governments to get the job done.

We need to shake-up our education system even further–embracing the positive new K-12 curriculum changes while helping teachers and schools bring it to life with modern tools. We need to be unapologetic champions of continued growth of post-secondary seats in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics – the STEAM disciplines. And, as the speed of economic change accelerates, we need to make sure mid-career retraining is available so workers can learn the skills needed to play key roles in the new economy.

On the business development front, B.C. entrepreneurs need to have access to capital–an essential to help them grow their startups into mature companies. We need to support companies as they take their innovations to market so they can grow their sales and exports at the same time as they invest in R&D.

And, above all, we must tear down the barriers inside the sector and between the tech sector and the rest of the economy. Today, every company is a tech company. In mining, in forestry, in agriculture, and in every sector you can imagine, tech is building a brighter future by making sure companies are set up to thrive for the long term in every corner of our province.

It will take hard work, determination, and the courage to take bold steps, but it will unlock limitless opportunities for our children, our communities, and our province.

– Jill Tipping, President and CEO, BC Tech Association