With the announcement of the huge win for the British Columbia tech sector in the $1.4 billion in funding from the federal Innovation Supercluster Initiative it is clear that a number of eggs are being placed in the BC tech basket.
For good reason. The province has the fastest-growing tech sector and workforce in Canada: employing roughly over 150,000 people with a 3.3% rise in the number of new technology companies in 2016 (growing over 12,200 businesses). It certainly doesn’t hurt that B.C. universities are a huge driver of world-class tech talent and quality research product, drawing over $800 million a year in research funding.
Additionally, between 2006 and 2015, there has been a 57% increase in engineering and computer science programs and, since 2001; $1.2 billion has been awarded in funding for research infrastructure and equipment.
Such growth and productivity in technology and innovation has inspired the need for capable hands at the helm, supporting the sector and advocating for the province’s interests federally and abroad. Last month, Alan Winter, former president and CEO of Genome B.C., was named just that pair of hands, appointed as the province’s first innovation commissioner.
“We’re thrilled to have Alan Winter take on this newly created role of innovation commissioner, and we look forward to creating new opportunities for B.C. tech companies, shepherding innovation across all industries and all regions of the province, and generating good jobs for people in B.C.,” said Premier John Horgan. “Today’s announcement is an example of what can be achieved through co-operation and putting the people of B.C. first. I know that Mr. Winter will proceed in that spirit of co-operation to strengthen national and cross-border relationships, and ensure that B.C. maximizes federal funding to benefit B.C. innovators and employers.”
The responsibilities of this new role include seeking and maintaining partnerships with the federal government, advocating for B.C.’s share of federal innovation-related program funding, championing the province’s tech sector in Ottawa and abroad, and promoting B.C. as a lucrative investment destination.
The innovation commissioner will help leverage federal funding programs in support of B.C.’s tech and innovation sector. He will also take an active role in B.C.’s partnership with Washington state to further develop the Cascadia Innovation Corridor.
“I want to make sure B.C. companies are at the front of the line for investment and partnership opportunities, both here in Canada and around the world,” Winter said.
Dr. Winter’s extensive resume includes 15 years as the president and CEO of Genome BC, and he has served as a director of over 30 organizations, including the Business Council of British Columbia and Alberta Innovates. He will be working to create partnerships with the federal government, facilitate national and international connections for BC businesses, and promote BC as a lucrative investment location. One of his first projects was the successful championing of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster.
“Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster will help B.C. companies develop new technologies that will boost the innovation ecosystem by creating opportunities that benefit many sectors of our economy,” said B.C. innovation commissioner Alan Winter. “This superb opportunity will also help our tech sector build and leverage a stronger network that will facilitate greater collaboration between industry and academia in our province.”
The role has been appointed by order-in-council for a term of one year, with the option for reappointment based on performance.