Innovate BC ignites start-up vibe
By Sohail Kamal, West Coast CorrespondentElectronics Engineering start-ups Technology
Provincial group promotes growth in tech circles
Innovate BC, a provincial government agency aimed at supporting innovation in British Columbia, has been tasked by the Provincial government to support the B.C. economy by bolstering new and existing start-ups. Innovate BC funds and delivers programs that support labour market needs and promote product commercialization and adoption.
West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to connect with Raghwa Gopal, president and CEO of Innovate BC, to learn more about its programs and services, what entrepreneurs can expect, and how existing companies can benefit from the new funding sources.
Innovate BC works to support companies at all stages of growth, across all sectors, all over British Columbia. The group helps companies start, scale and stay in British Columbia – while ensuring that the benefits of B.C.’s thriving tech sector are felt by people in all regions of the province.
Funding & support
The pandemic created an unprecedented need for business funding and support, and thankfully, Innovate BC was available step-up and lend some support.
“In 2020-21, we administered a new program that offered support specifically to main street businesses, non-tech companies, who had to close their doors but had little to no online presence,” says Gopal. “At no cost to the company, we connected these struggling businesses with digital experts and service providers to help them with everything from digital marketing to e-commerce so they could continue to operate even with their doors closed.”
Innovate BC also provides funding for tech solutions. The group recently begun accepting applications for its BC Fast Pilot program, which is delivered in partnership with National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).
“We provide grants of up to $200,000 to help regional businesses design, build and operate a pilot plant or small demonstration of their technology in real-world conditions,” explains Gopal. Since the program started in 2019, $5.9-million has been invested into 48 B.C. pilot demonstrations.
There are also programs that are tailored for academics. To date the Ignite program has awarded funding to 34 projects for a total value of $8.5M.
“We also anticipate opening applications shortly for the next round of R&D funding through our Ignite program. Grants of up to $300,000 will be given to teams for industry and academia to come together to commercialize innovations,” explains Gopal.
Grants for R&D projects
This represents part of Innovate BC’s mission – to connect innovators with funding solutions for the future.
“We help entrepreneurs, founders, and start-ups access government funding to accelerate the growth of their company or the development of their product. Over the years we have offered a variety of hiring grants, which at once help companies with staffing costs and assist in training young professionals and bridging the skills gap,” says Gopal. “We also provide grants for R&D projects and technology demonstrations to help innovators commercialize their game-changing solutions and gain customer adoption. Lastly, we oversee a province-wide mentorship program with the help of our partners to provide business coaching to entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses.”
B.C.’s technology industry is substantial, according to Western Economic Diversification Canada, accounting for seven percent of BC’s Gross Domestic Product and employing 5.2 percent of the province’s workforce.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Innovate BC applied a recovery and resiliency lens to all programs. We have also built federal partnerships to help B.C. companies access new procurement opportunities,” says Gopal. And, it should be noted that south of the border, the Feds are tightening interest rates into a slowing economy. Canada will need to have its governments continue supporting small and medium sized businesses to help weather the upcoming storms.
Innovate BC’s Impact in 2021:
- 5,600 high-paying jobs and work placements created
- $127 million company revenues generated
- $158 million in investment raised by Innovate BC-supported ventures
- 2,000 unique companies have accessed our programs
- 39% of all companies supported located in regional and rural areas
- 6,700 C. entrepreneurs trained
- 87% of client ventures reported programs as high value
To learn more, go to innovatebc.ca, or to be notified when applications open for funding opportunities, sign up to become an Innovate BC Insider at innovatebc.ca/insider.
Sohail Kamal is EP&T’s West Coast correspondent.