Grow Companies and Accelerate Clean Growth Roundtable

August 8, 2016—Toronto, ON
Grow Companies and Accelerate Clean Growth
Hosted by Valerie Fox

Area of Focus

How to put Canada onto a firm path towards long-term growth and a higher quality of life through supporting and entrepreneurial and creative society:

  • What does Canada need to do to build, attract and keep the world's best talent?
  • Reimagine how Canada could support startups and growing companies. What would that look like?
  • What are Canada's strengths and can you suggest ways we can capitalize on them to be a global leader in innovation?

Highlights

Talent development and attraction; increasing funding available to student entrepreneurs; engaging youth and women for tech career development; building linkages with international markets; connecting hubs and investing in infrastructure; digital freedom; supporting exporters; reduction of red tape; 3rd party support for entrepreneurs; leverage Canadian success stories and promote Canadian brand; and, better accommodation of international VC investments.

Summary of Discussion

Social media event at TechTO, followed by a Twitter-Talk to engage with Canadians on Canada's Inclusive Innovation Agenda.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Talent Attraction: There is difficulty in retaining talent, and Canada is losing highly-skilled individuals to the United States (Silicon Valley/San Francisco/Boston). There is a relative lack of "hardware" expertise in Canada. Career stability is a consideration in the technology innovation ecosystem—many large multi-national firms with operations in Canada offer short-term contracts.

Talent Funding: A big part of supporting talent development will require increasing the eligibility of student-entrepreneur access to academic funding grants/loans/scholarships. This could help decrease prohibitive financial burdens on students looking to launch their first ideas.

Red Tape: Start-ups and SMEs can find the process of navigating regulatory requirements burdensome. Programs like SR&ED are beneficial, but there can be challenges qualifying for this program.

Infrastructure: A lack of infrastructure connecting Canadian tech hubs, especially between the Kitchener/Waterloo–Toronto corridor, creates challenges for establishing local partnerships, and is impacting growth potential in these markets.

Access to Capital: While available funding for start-ups/SMEs is viewed positively, there are areas for improvement related to the pool of private investment in competitor jurisdictions. When companies receive international VC funding, especially from the US, they can encounter eligibility challenges for programs that help make Canada a competitive jurisdiction to start and grow a business. Need to reduce barriers to leveraging US-based VC investors, as well as to encourage Canadian VC's into increased investments.

Top Ideas/Outcomes

Market Leaders: While Canada has produced several global market leaders in the tech and innovation space, we can do more to help build Canada's brand and international profile. We need to champion Canada's success stories to help serve as role models and mentors for the next generation of entrepreneurs to help strengthen the community/ecosystem.

Partnerships: There are opportunities for partnerships among the innovation community in non-US economic regions, such as Latin America, which would increase Canada's diversification of trade relationships and attraction of international talent. Both regions share a number of common variables, most importantly, the structural 'brain drain' to US-based technology hubs, and could benefit from reciprocal exchanges and opportunities to leverage each other as 'low cost' entry points into new markets.

Talent Development: Canada should look to increasing entrepreneurial based learning programs/curricula for youth to help develop local talent. There is a need to increase linkages/partnerships with youth across borders (domestically and internationally) in technology hubs to facilitate the development of entrepreneurially focused communities. Funding opportunities (scholarships, etc) would encourage participation among Canada's youth into innovation based technology areas.

Expanding Education Delivery Models: There is an opportunity to accredit programs like Tech bootcamps (such as Bitmaker) and talent development programs which train participants with valuable technological (coding), and entrepreneurial skills to facilitate careers changes. This would improve participation in these programs, leading to the development of certain skills, such as those needed for technical fields.

Inclusive Engagement: Canada has notable strengths in the diversity of its population. Increasing government and industry engagement with the civil population, whether through educational or participatory campaigns, could help tap Canada's social assets and increase innovation through dialogue.

3rd Party Delivery: There are opportunities to explore third party delivery options to help reduce administrative regulatory compliance requirements on entrepreneurs (such as automated software programs).

Regulatory Review: Government should continue to review business regulations and policies at set intervals (every 5–10 years) to assess how they are working, and ensure they remain relevant and effective.

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