BC government invests nearly $25M to support innovation at the post-secondary level

The funding will support 34 research projects at 5 institutions that will drive innovation and economic growth.

The BC government is investing in innovation at the post-secondary level to the tune of nearly $25 million. The funding—with an aim to drive innovation and economic growth—will support 34 research projects at five institutions:

  • Simon Fraser University

  • Thompson Rivers University

  • University of British Columbia Vancouver

  • University of British Columbia Okanagan

  • University of Victoria

The research projects vary but represent important sectors of the innovation economy including healhtech, AI and cleantech. 

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Why it matters: In addition to being an innovation and growth driver, the BC government hopes that this funding will keep tech talent from fleeing the province. “It’s going to be critical. Every sector is looking for talent. People used to say to me all the time that capital is mobile. Now labor is mobile. We've seen during the pandemic, where companies now see that they can work remotely, that people are moving all over the place. What that means is other jurisdictions are coming for our talent, as well. So we need to continue to give people opportunities,” jobs, economic recovery and innovation minister Ravi Kahlon told Vancouver Tech Journal.

Further, government support and funding is also imperative for the health of the local innovation economy.

“People don't realize that government plays a critical role in supporting the innovation of these companies. We're seeing whether it's STEMCELL Technologies, whether it's Precision NanoSystems, whether it’s AbCellera, the majority of their success has come because of government support, the research we fund through advanced education and the investments we make in our infrastructure. We see an important role in that. Our role is to build that foundation so that we can take all these ideas and help commercialize them,” Kahlon states. 

Tuition: The funding is awarded through the BC Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF) which, during the past four fiscal years, has awarded more than $154 million to 255 projects.

“We're just enhancing it,” Kahlon said of the relationship of today’s funding announcement to the BCKDF. “We are really proud of it. We know that innovation and research is going to be critical for us in our economic recovery. If you look at the five institutions that are getting money right now, some of the projects they are working on are super exciting. We know that, through this program, we've had success in commercializing, in getting new patents. So it's super exciting and just takes us one step closer to where we want to go,” he continued. 

Alumni: Past recipients of the BCKDF include former UBC professor and AbCellera co-founder Dr. Carl Hansen. “I was with him yesterday and said that we're announcing more research. He said, ‘You know, I received funding for my research’ and I said ‘Yeah, I know. That's why I'm telling you,’” Kahlon joked, before expanding on the importance of companies like AbCellera and founders like Dr. Hansen.

“Yeah, and companies like AbCellera, STEMCELL, Precision—that list can can go on, especially in the life science sector—they are not saying just support us, they're saying help grow the ecosystem, which is kind of cool, That doesn't happen in all sectors. We're working closely with them and having discussions with the federal government on what we can be doing part of our economic recovery to to have more anchor companies here, but at the same time support the cool little companies that formulate around them, because that's also very exciting.”

Graduate programs: Understanding the deep importance of government funding, Kahlon acknowledges future need.

“I think we're going to continue to look for opportunities to invest in research and our scientific infrastructure. We have to, to be honest with you. I mean, maybe it's my sporting background, but I'm competitive as hell. We're competing against the world. And so we brought in Professor Mariana Mazzucato,” he said before exploring his personal relationship with innovation.

“I geek out on all the things that we're investing in and the public should be proud of it, too. These are taxpayer dollars going to help not only solve some of the major challenges we have in our province and in our country, but the world. It will also produce and help support new companies that are going to create good paying jobs here.”

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