Issue 17-63: Input Indicators of the B.C. Technology Sector, 2016
March 29, 2017
British Columbia’s high technology sector is a vital part of the province’s economy. This was reinforced in 2016, when the B.C. government launched a new tech strategy, including 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.
In general, British Columbia fares quite well in performance in the education sector. B.C.’s universities have excelled in terms of technology licenses, start-up companies formed, and patents issued. The province also fares relatively well in funding for researchers in its educational institutions. B.C. also excels in many aspects of educational attainment. However, although the province continues to have the highest percentage of the population with high school education, a rank it has held for nearly two decades, there is a deficiency with respect to the training of new graduates in some specific disciplines. The education-based components of the B.C. government’s new technology strategy, such as the addition of coding to school curricula and providing high-speed internet access to 100% of the province, could potentially have an impact on the province’s educational and tech-adoption indicators in the future.
British Columbia returns above average ratings in many of the business stimulus indicators. Most notably, B.C. leads the country in per capita venture capital investment. Also, although the province’s ratio of research and development (R&D) performance by business to provincial GDP remains below the national average, B.C. still holds a solid ranking of third in Canada. Conversely, British Columbia scores below average on some other business stimulus indicators, such as patents awarded per capita. 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, has potential to improve some of these indicators in coming years.
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.
British Columbia is on par with other regions in attracting skilled foreigners in relation to its population size, although their average level of education tends to be slightly lower than in some other provinces of destination. In recent years, the province has seen a strong 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 six straight 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.
Unemployment rates among workers in the natural and applied sciences in B.C. remain 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, Vancouver, remains among the most desirable places to live in the world, ranking first in the Americas for quality of life, despite its high cost of living.
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 that what they learned was useful in the workplace. Of those employed in high technology occupations at the time of the survey, the majority said that their educational training was relevant to their current position. Graduates working in high technology fields earned substantially more, on average, than those working in non-high technology occupations.