Grow Companies and Accelerate Clean Growth Roundtable

August 15, 2016—Calgary, AB
Grow Companies and Accelerate Clean Growth
Hosted by Elizabeth Cannon

Area of Focus

To Grow Global Leaders in Innovation:

  • Access to Markets and Global Value Chains: Are Canadian firms prepared for this situation? How do we support those that are?
  • Access to Financing: How can Canada ensure that its high-potential, innovative firms have proper access to financing?
  • Developing, Attracting and Retaining Talent: What can Canadian high-impact firms do to compete globally in the race to attract and develop talent? What assistance do they need?
  • Adopting Innovation: What can be done to encourage more Canadian businesses to invest in productivity-enhancing technologies?
  • Leverage government procurement to prove new technology and support emerging firms


Need to attract and develop sophisticated talent necessary for global market expansion; Need to embed STEM and programming into early learning (K-12); Better enable and support both angel and venture capital investors; Simplify and streamline access to government support programs for SMEs and start-ups; Build programming to network large firms with SMEs and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Summary of Discussion

Access to talent - both STEM and sophisticated management talent - is key to building and growing innovative companies in Canada. Immigration and national skills-related initiatives are necessary to properly address short and long-term talent gaps for growth companies.

Promoting the growth of start-ups and SMEs require an enabling environment that includes streamlined access to government support and strong ties with anchor companies that engage with and support SMEs. Regional clusters focused on local enhancing capabilities can pivot and develop spin-off innovation in other sectors.

Recent efforts to support the Canadian venture capital industry are proving to be successful and should be complemented with further support for both early stage and late-stage venture capital funding.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Immigration Process: Current immigration processes related to the relocation of international executives with firm job offers posed significant challenges for their growth. Executive and senior management roles should be fast-tracked to enable job creation and growth.

Education: The pipeline of STEM talent development requires significant up-grading. Efforts must be placed on expanding coding, programming, mathematics and other related fields in K-12. Collaborative programming between post-secondary institutions and industry would be a meaningful way of combining critical thinking with practical skills development. Government programs that encourage industry and post-secondary collaboration in skills development / experiential learning should be expanded.

Government Programs: Government support programs should be streamlined and reviewed to ensure they meet key objectives and are of real assistance to the SME community. While SR&ED was noted as a necessary program to facilitate early stage survival and growth, its design was flagged as too broad.

Access to Capital and Funding: More needs to be done to support the investment activities of angel and venture capital investors. Israel's Yozma program and its de-risking of early stage investment was noted as model to emulate. While the VCAP model was noted as successful in its first phase, a recapitalization will be necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the asset class. Risk averse nature of Canadian late stage funders noted as a major impediment to scaling.

Ecosystem Development: Anchors play an important role in the development of deep clusters of talent and growing firms. More could be done to engage anchor firms in the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems to promote talent development and SME growth.

Top Ideas/Outcomes

Procurement: Actively use government procurement as a means to support and grow SMEs and new technologies – carve out a small percentage of procurement funding to be used in such a manner.

Immigration: Fast track executive talent for high-growth firms.

Federal Programs: Streamline and ease of access to government programs by building a transparent architecture of what programs apply to firms in what sector and at what stage of growth. Strengthen programs that connect the SME community to the post-secondary sector in talent and skills development and product development (research).

Early Stage Funding: Continue to grow venture capital talent, mangers and funds by providing further financial support and incentives through a program resembling VCAP. Support continued growth in early-stage funding by derisking investments and through market-driven approaches, including matching or co-investment programs. Late Stage Funding: Build a late-stage/growth-stage fund of funds program modeled on VCAP to ensure growth firms have access to necessary capital.

Anchor Firms: Attract anchor firms to help deepen regionally specific clusters of technological talent and expertise.

Innovation Policy: Benchmark policy and policy initiatives against the best in the world.

Support for SMEs: Focus, love and champion scaleable SMEs.

Education: Develop long-term talent development strategy through focus on supporting STEM-related curriculum changes and work-integrated learning. Strengthen government support for programs and initiatives designed to foster SME / industry and post-secondary collaboration on research and talent / skills development.

Clean tech: Champion Canadian clean tech firms by developing supporting regulatory frameworks and policies to incentivize technology adoption at home.

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