Vancouver grows ideas. Scientists, engineers, researchers and designers create knowledge and concepts that mutate across industry lines. Entrepreneurs transform discoveries into valuable products and services. New approaches spark high-tech industries and bolster the productivity of traditional industries. Companies like Gemcom (mining productivity software), Copperleaf (infrastructure management software) and Wolf Medical Systems (healthcare productivity software) are international stories.
Vancouver’s economy has been transformed in the last quarter-century. The historic dependence on port and resource extraction activities has been supplemented by a strong service economy that caters to both local and international needs. And the city exports expertise in engineering, sustainability, management, financial and technical services to companies and governments the world over.
Manufacturing enterprises succeed by drawing on the intrinsic assets of the community to identify and exploit market niches. Vancouverites’ enjoyment of the mountains and ocean has spurred development of a performance and technical apparel industry that is conquering world markets. Leading manufacturers come to the region’s ski resorts not just for an exceptional holiday, but to check out the latest gear. Exports of food and related products are on the rise, thanks to the fertility of the Fraser Valley and the abundance of salmon and other seafood in the Pacific Ocean.
The rise of high technology-based industries has been marked by the emergence of globally competitive companies, making the region home to many unique, technology-based products, from the arm used on space shuttles to Sierra Wireless’s modem to the superconducting quantum computer being developed by D Wave Systems Inc. Highly competitive local industries with global reputations include clean technologies and planning for sustainability, biotechnology, digital media and film and TV production.
Vancouver’s innovation is built on strong institutional support. This includes public sector investments in top quality education and research, and effective public-private partnerships. The governments of Canada and British Columbia provide significant support to post-secondary education, technology training, research and innovation. Canada has one of the highest rates of broadband and overall internet access in the world, and British Columbia has the highest rate in Canada.
Two outstanding universities in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University—along with Western Canada’s leading polytechnic (British Columbia Institute of Technology) and numerous community colleges, technological institutes and government research centres—complement their teaching and research expertise with excellent international linkages and a commitment to collaboration with business. This milieu encourages spin-off companies, startup incubation, technology licensing and commercialization. Companies like Neuromed, Cardiome Pharmaceutical, Nexterra Energy and Rainmaker Studios grew out of the region’s collaborative environment.
Photo Credit: BC Cancer Research Centre / Jason Pfiefer