Issue 16-178: Input Indicators of the British Columbia Technology Sector: 2015 Edition

September 20, 2016

The high technology sector is a vital part of the B.C. economy. This is reflected in the B.C. government’s first technology strategy, which includes a $100-million technology innovation fund to fuel the venture capital market in the province. High technology firms tend to be innovative and efficient. They create goods and services that confer benefits on other parts of the economy by improving productivity and profitability, while at the same time providing relatively high-wage employment.

The picture of British Columbia that emerges from the most recent input indicators is varied. In many areas, British Columbia compares quite favourably with other provinces, and has shown notable growth. On the other hand, performance has lagged in some areas. As such, the detailed indicators have great potential for offering tangible direction for government policies and industry growth strategies.

Education Sector

In terms of performance in the education sector, British Columbia generally fares well. B.C.’s universities have excelled in technology licenses, start-up companies formed, and patents issued. Funding for researchers in the province’s educational institutions is also quite strong, and the general population presents well in indicators of technology adoption.

Conversely, B.C. tends to lag other provinces in indicators of overall educational attainment. Despite continuing to have the highest percentage of the population with high school education, a rank it has held for nearly two decades, the province falls short with respect to the training of new graduates in some specific disciplines.

It will be interesting to see how the education-based components of the B.C. government’s new technology strategy, such as the addition of coding to school curriculum and providing high-speed Internet access to 100% of the province, will impact the province’s educational and tech-adoption indicators in the future.

Business Sector

Compared to other Canadian provinces, British Columbia returns above average ratings in approximately half of the business stimulus indicators. The ratio of research and development (R&D) performance by business to provincial GDP remains below the national average, but B.C. still holds a solid ranking of third among the provinces. Also, B.C. leads the country in per capita venture capital investment.

British Columbia also scores below average on some other business stimulus indicators, such as patents awarded per capita.

Some indicators could potentially be improved by the provincial government’s strategy to boost the number of tech companies connected to foreign markets, as well as the establishment of a $100 million fund to provide local start-ups with more venture capital.

Government Sector

Taxation of individuals, small businesses and corporations is more favourable in B.C. than in most other provinces. All three levels of tax rates in the province have decreased over the last decade and remain among the lowest in the country. The province also fares somewhat favourably in terms of gross expenditure on R&D as a share of GDP.

On the other hand, combined federal and provincial government performance of R&D (as a share of GDP) is lower in B.C. than in every other province.

External Sector

In relation to its population size, British Columbia is on par with other regions in attracting skilled foreigners, although their average level of education tends to be slightly lower than in some other provinces of destination. The province also continues to see a net inflow of people from other provinces, bolstering the supply of well-trained, educated workers. B.C. imports of high technology goods—which can be an indicator of future production, since imported components are often used to produce high tech products—have been climbing for three straight reporting years.

The B.C. government’s support for shortening the waiting period for skilled foreign workers coming to B.C. under the B.C. provincial nominee program, as well as its support for the federal government’s Express Entry immigration program for workers with specialized tech skills have the potential to impact many of these indicators in the future.

Labour

Unemployment rates among workers in the natural and applied sciences in B.C. remains substantially lower than for the economy as a whole. In terms of researchers per capita, British Columbia maintains a third-place standing. The province’s largest city remains among the most desirable places to live in the world, ranking first in the Americas for quality of life, despite its somewhat high cost of living.

Post-Secondary Outcomes

Results from the most recent BC Student Outcomes surveys indicate that graduates from high technology-related disciplines continued to be satisfied with their education and found their studies useful in the workplace. Of those employed at the time of the survey, the majority were working full-time and found that their educational training was relevant to their position. Graduates working in high technology fields also earn substantially more, on average, than those working in non-high tech occupations.

The complete report is available for download.