The Voice: BC’s Tech Sector Continues to Outperform, and Has More Room to Grow

Author: Bill Tam
The Voice

Earlier in June, BC Statistics released their latest study on the high tech sector in BC. Based on data compiled as of the end of 2013, the BC Tech sector has proven once again to be an engine of growth for the province and a vital part of the BC economy.

The report highlighted the breadth and diversity of the tech sector and the important role it plans in conferring the benefits of innovation and competitiveness to other industries within the province.

We’ve also witnessed the growth in the number of mid-sized and larger companies which grew to 423 firms in 2013 versus 391 in 2012 representing an 8% growth rate. Although BC’s tech industry continues to be heavily weighted to small and startup companies, the continued growth in mid-sized and larger firms is a positive trend that evidences the continued maturation of the sector.

Among the key highlights from the report:

  • Tech Matters to the BC Economy.  With over 9,700 companies generating over $23B in revenue, BC’s tech industry is now among the top contributors to the provincial GDP. In 2013, high tech generated approximately 6.5% of the province’s GDP. In comparative terms, BC’s forestry industry accounted for about 3% of total GDP.
  • Tech Matters to BC’s Growth. Over the past decade, the tech sector has grown at twice the rate of the province overall and has been a key part of driving BC’s economic growth. Revenue grew by 5.2% in 2013 vs. 2012, with software leading the overall growth at 14.4%. BC’s revenue growth was the second highest among provinces in 2013.
  • Tech Matters to BC Jobs.  Employment in the tech sector continued to climb in 2013 rising to 86,800, a 1.4% increase from 2012. The tech sector employs more people than BC’s resource industry (mining, oil and gas, and forestry sectors combined) and reinforces the importance of the tech sector to the province’s job strategy. 
  • Tech Matters to Family Wages. Along with the growth in employment, the aggregate wages for the tech sector rose by 1.7% in 2013 to $6.3 billion, a new high. Wages in the tech sector continue to be significantly higher than the BC average industrial wage – $1390 per week versus $870 per week representing a 60% higher wage for tech workers.

The startup ecosystem has flourished in recent years. Bolstered by incubator and accelerator programs throughout the province, there were over 700 new companies in 2013, an 8.1% increase over 2012. The growth in firms was province wide, with every region recording an increase in the number of tech firms.

BC’s tech industry is on a roll. And there remains significant unrealized potential here. As reported in 2014 British Columbia Technology Report Card, BC’s tech sector makes up a far smaller share of employment and GDP than the majority of states in the US. Tech accounts for 9.3% of the US GDP in contrast to tech in BC which accounts for only 6.5%.

We are encouraged to see the growing number of provincial government ministerial priorities that include technology and innovation and the tacit support for the many policy areas that have been noted as priorities by the BCTIA community. These include venture capital, development of a skills plan for the sector and improving access for BC technology companies to BC government procurement processes.

The next few years holds significant promise for BC’s tech sector and the province as whole. With the right focus, attention and investment, the tech industry will successfully emerge from a startup to a celebrated technology ecosystem that can rival the best in the world.

A full copy of the report can be found here.