Issue 18-18 Input Indicators of the B.C. Technology Sector, 2017

January 25, 2018

B.C.’s high technology sector is a vital part of the province’s economy and, as such, the B.C. government is committed to fostering an environment that will fuel investments in innovation and technology development.

High technology firms are at the cutting edge of innovation and finding efficiencies in productive processes. They also provide high paying jobs while creating goods and services that have positive impacts on the productivity and profitability of other sectors of the economy.

The picture of B.C. that emerges from the most recent input indicators is mixed. In many areas, B.C. compares quite favourably with other provinces, and has shown positive trends. 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 general, B.C. 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 high technology related disciplines.

Business Sector

B.C. ranks well among provinces in many business stimulus indicators. 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. B.C. also ranks third in per capita venture capital investment. Over time, B.C. has lagged other provinces in the number of patents awarded per capita, with annual per capita patents granted below the national average. Patent applications can be rejected for numerous reasons, and the rate of rejection can be quite high. B.C. has a higher rate of rejection than Canada as a whole. However, the success rate across Canada and B.C. has increased since 2000, likely an indicator of better familiarity with the procedures and chances of success.

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. Combined federal and provincial government performance of R&D (as a share of GDP) is lower in B.C. than in every other province. However, due to a more favourable ranking of business investment in R&D in the province, B.C. fares better in terms of gross expenditure on R&D as a share of GDP, ranking fourth among provinces.

External Sector

B.C. 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, B.C. 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 technology products—have more than doubled in the last 20 years. The B.C. government’s support for skilled foreign workers coming to the province, as well as the fact that B.C.’s economic growth has outperformed all other Canadian provinces in the last two years, have the potential to impact many of these indicators in the future. Additionally, the recent increase in the number of refugees has slightly lowered the level of education of new immigrants, also affecting some of these indicators.

Labour

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, B.C. 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 reputation of having a high cost of living.

Post-secondary Outcomes

Results from recent BC Student Outcomes surveys indicate that graduates from high technology-related disciplines continued to be satisfied with their education and found what they learned 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.