John Yap: B.C. government is investing in technology sector
By John Yap
It is often said that governments don't create jobs—that is the role of the private sector. But governments can indeed support innovators and B.C.'s burgeoning technology sector is a prime example.
More than 10 years ago, our government began creating an atmosphere, a strong foundation as a jumping-off point for researchers and businesses in the technology sector. Today those efforts are paying dividends. We're seeing strong economic growth and well-paying jobs for British Columbians. Job growth in this sector is increasing at twice the rate of overall employment rates in the province, and wages are well above the provincial average.
The technology sector in B.C. provides more than 84,000 jobs and a total payroll of $5.3 billion—and those numbers were from 2009 during the global economic downturn. Organizations such as the B.C. Technology Industry Association, Life Sciences B.C., and Wavefront all deserve credit for shaping the industry and bringing it to where it is today.
The Premier's Technology Council also played a key role. But a huge a part of that success is due to the entrepreneurial community, as they take the risks required to build the economy.
A November 2012 report issued by Startup Genome, a San Francisco-based R&D project, rates Vancouver as the number-nine startup hub in the world out of 20 cities. Silicon Valley is number one, and Chicago is number 10.
Given this strong performance, it makes sense for our government to support the technology sector through a program called the BCIC Acceleration Network. It's an initiative of the B.C. Innovation Council (BCIC), which is working to accelerate the commercialization of technology through the support of startups, and the development of entrepreneurs to bring along advanced or innovative technologies to meet the needs of industry in B.C.
The Acceleration Network is helping connect new tech entrepreneurs with the know-how they will need to get their products and services to market successfully. Most of us have at some point received mentorship from an experienced colleague. The steady guidance of a seasoned business professional who has been through it all before—is what the Acceleration Network provides for tech entrepreneurs.
To keep the momentum going, earlier this week our government announced a joint collaboration between the B.C. Innovation Council and Mitacs to administer government's pilot Commercialization Voucher Program. The program connects B.C. companies with leading-edge researchers in our post-secondary system. These collaborations help fine-tune innovative new products and services to get them to market faster.
Programs under the B.C. Jobs Plan—like the commercialization vouchers and the BCIC Acceleration Network—are enhancing the competiveness of B.C. technology companies, and securing our reputation for supportive growth in the technology industry. That makes British Columbia even more attractive to global investors. I applaud our technology sector for the work it has done.
The world knows that B.C. companies innovate, improve and deliver. I encourage British Columbians to find out more about what our government is doing to create jobs and grow our economy by visiting www.bcjobsplan.ca.
John Yap is B.C.'s minister of advanced education, innovation and technology.