Economic Strategy - Digital Industries Table

Positioning Canada’s digital industries for economic growth

Chair

Tobias Lütke, Shopify

Tobias Lütke is the founder and CEO of Shopify. The Ottawa-based company powers over 500,000 businesses around the world through its multi-channel commerce platform. As a programmer by background, Tobi has served on the core team of the Ruby on Rails framework and has created many popular open source libraries. Tobi actively supports groups that focus on computer literacy, education and building greater tech talent in Canada.

Members

  • Boris Wertz, Version One Ventures
  • Ian Crosby, Bench
  • Christian Dandeneau, ID Fusion Software
  • Melissa Sariffodeen, Ladies Learning Code
  • Michael Litt, Vidyard
  • Allen Lau, Wattpad
  • Janet Bannister, Real Ventures
  • JF Gagne, Element AI
  • Eric Fournier, Moment Factory
  • Ian Rae, CloudOps
  • Noemie Dupuy, Budge Studios
  • Tea Nicola, WealthBar
  • Maithili Mavinkurve, Sightline Innovation
  • Julie Rivard, Squiggle Park

Federal representatives

  • Graham Flack, Canadian Heritage
  • John Knubley, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Meetings

November 21, 2017 Location: Shopify, Ottawa, ON

Focus

The table affirmed that technology has such a pervasive impact that it is more useful to describe a digital strategy rather than a digital sector. They would like to see a Digital strategy that supports and enables Canadian digital companies.

What we talked about

It was proposed that success could be achieving alignment across the education systems, business supports, social supports, and immigration practices around certain specializations by 2025. It was agreed that small course changes, over time, can have large effects.

  1. Scaling up—There was discussion on what size of firms have the most value, and what the right strategy(ies) would be for getting more firms to scale up. Could seed multiple start-ups then let the market play out or address gaps—financing, early markets, peer to peer ecosystem, incubation space, barriers to entry.
  2. IP and Data Strategy—Getting the policy environment right would be an enabler for global competitive advantage. The Canadian AI sector has deliberately taken an open IP approach, trading ownership for acceleration. IP ownership and non-Canadian firms vs using IP and data sets jointly to carve out a territory on a global scale. What are other countries doing?
  3. Digital Adoption—“Every company is a tech company; they just don’t all know it.” Identify and unblock the demand for new technology by Canadian incumbent firms. “Leapfrogging” generations was also discussed under this heading.
  4. Access to creative and digitally skilled talent—Discussions focussed on challenges in accessing certain key skilled talent, engaging and retaining more women and indigenous people in the tech sector.
  5. Making Canada the best place in the world for digital entrepreneurs—Entrepreneurial culture: how to ensure there are enough entrepreneurs with the transferable practical experience in growing firms. Inspiring entrepreneurs to grow vs having an early exit strategy. Building a Canadian cultural identity around digital entrepreneurship.

What we'll do next

Table members self-identified to join a taskforce for one of the above themes and to refine the vision for the Table. They will develop discussion papers by end of December. External engagement sessions will be planned for January to test these ideas and gather input from a wider audience. The January and March Table meetings will then take deeper dives to refine options.

The competitive advantage of any company is connected with their digital advantage. It’s not an industry, it’s a strategy
Digital Industries Table Member, November 21, 2017
January 22, 2018 Location: Ottawa, ON

Focus

The Digital Industries Table met on January 22 to discuss access to creative and digitally skilled talent as well as enabling conditions for Canadian digital firms to grow to scale.   

What we talked about

  1. Vision: The chair led a discussion on the vision for Canada's digital industries in 2025 and beyond. Concepts of inclusion, democracy, innovation, competition and success were discussed.  There was a desire for the vision statement to reflect that digital technology is embedded in all sectors and that Canada aspires to be a leader in democratic digital innovation.                  
  2. Access to Creative and Digitally Skilled Talent: The Table is strongly seized by the idea that many of the jobs of the future will include a digital component.  Table members expressed great interest in developing strategies that will provide all Canadians with the digital skills needed for success.  They talked about competencies and skills that will be needed, and mechanisms to acquire them, including:
    • Education/training 
    • Industry led work/study, apprenticeship and retraining programs
    • Retaining/repatriating talent
    • Immigration
  3. Growing Firms to Scale:  Table Members shared their own experiences, which supported the latest analysis conducted by private and public sector researchers. They considered  factors that accelerate or hinder firms' ability to grow, including:
    • Access to peers who have successfully scaled.  The Canadian digital industry needs an established informal or formal mentoring network to share best practices for firms that are hoping to grow to scale.
    • Availability of skilled talent, including C-suite talent with leadership experience at scale. 
    • Accessing growth capital. Canadian entrepreneurs need the expertise to build firms that are investor-ready, and, since many capital pools are global, it takes both sophistication and time to guide firm growth.

What we'll do next

  • The Table will hold engagement sessions with stakeholders in February 2018.
  • The next Table meeting will take place in March 2018.  
The world is waiting for a clear forerunner to emerge in the digital economy, not only to lead, but to share its playbook globally
Digital Industries Table Member, January 22, 2018
April 10, 2018 Location: Toronto, ON

Focus

The Digital Industries Table met on April 10 to discuss four key priority areas for economic growth in the digital industries with the objective of creating a common understanding of the forward process towards the final report and articulating draft proposals for the 4 key priority themes.

What we talked about

  1. Digital Adoption: The Table discussed the opportunities for increasing the adoption and acceptance of digital technologies across all sectors of the economy. Several factors could play a role in facilitating digital adoption including:
    • affordable access to the internet for business and individual Canadians
    • promoting the benefits of technology
    • taking the risk and uncertainty out of digital adoption
    • streamlined digital government
  2. Leveraging Data and intellectual Property (IP): The Table agreed that this is an area that will require significant study. The current environment includes issues of privacy, security, open data, leveraging data for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and commercializing IP in Canada. They also talked about the diverse global models for data privacy. The Table will continue to develop ideas and potential proposals in this area following the discussion at the meeting.
  3. Access to Creative and Digitally Skilled Talent:  The Table endorsed several of the ideas stemming from the last meeting and refined their approach. They agreed that access to skilled talent is a major factor effecting the speed at which firms can grow and the fierce competition for highly trained and experienced workers in the STEAM fields. Discussions revolved around a number of areas including:
    • Industry leaders working with post-secondary institutions towards increasing the number of STEAM graduates
    • Increasing participation in the digital workforce of Indigenous peoples, women and unrepresented groups.
    • repatriation of Canadian talent
    • working towards an industry-approved coding curriculum
  4. Growing Firms to Scale:  Table Members discussed factors that could support and accelerate growth, focussing mainly on scaling up mid-sized firms with high growth potential. They raised the importance of providing support beyond the start-up phase to firms that are growing at a strong rate in order to assist them in becoming anchor firms within the Canadian economy – thus leading to a stronger ecosystem.

What we'll do next

  • The Table continues to articulate proposals, an ambitious vision for the industry and related targets.
  • The next Table meeting will take place in May 2018.  
May 17, 2018 Location: Ottawa, ON

Focus

  • The Fourth Table Meeting was held on May 17th in Ottawa at the Shopify Offices.
  • Guest speakers included the former Governor General, the Right Honorable David Johnston, who discussed the Rideau Hall Foundation’s Innovation Space and Mr. Jean-Frédéric Lafaille, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office who spoke about policy decisions behind Foreign Direct Investments.

What we talked about

  • Members discussed the way forward to the final report and refined and validated proposals for the four key priority areas. Table members reached consensus on proposals but further engagement will be necessary to further validate and establish targets to measure implementation. At this point, members have put forward the following proposals:
    • Digital Adoption: Promote a Canadian culture of innovation; accelerate universal, equal and affordable connectivity by 2025; support the creation of a Digital Technology Adoption Program (DTAP); endorse the Innovative Solutions and Build in Canada Innovation Programs; call on the Federal Government to provide end-to-end digital Government services by 2022.
    • Data and AI Strategy: Establish a CanAI, industry led Advisory Council; implement or emulate a privacy approach similar to GDPR; create an interoperable open data library.
    • Scaling up (Own the Podium): Establish a Venture Debt pilot program to match Series A Venture Capital; modernize SR&ED; create a Hypergrowth Passport for high growth firms (Nexus-style pathway to programs and services).
    • Skills and Talent: Create a Digital Skills and Talent Collaboration Hub; endorse and promote the Global Skills Strategy.

What we'll do next

  • The next Digital Industries Table Meeting is scheduled for June 22nd in Toronto. The meeting will kick-off with an industry engagement session with key stakeholders to solicit feedback on proposals. The engagement session will be followed by a members only Table Meeting.
June 22, 2018 Location: Toronto, ON

Focus

One June 22nd, the Digital Industries Economic Strategy Table held its fifth meeting in Toronto, Ontario. The purpose of the meeting was to seek feedback from industry stakeholders on key elements of the Table’s proposals.

What we talked about

Stakeholders from industry associations and digital industry firms were presented with the Table’s work over the past year. They endorsed a majority of proposals and the broad direction of the Table’s work. Specifically:

  • They agreed that an emphasis should be put on developing and increasing the supply of qualified, digitally skilled STEM talent by increasing the number of computer science graduates, increasing work-integrated learning opportunities and ultimately, keeping talent in Canada.
  • They agreed on the importance of accelerating universal connectivity in Canada—to ensure that all Canadian can participate in the digital economy.
  • They agreed with the objectives of the Own the Podium proposal, specifically the mentorship component whereby a community of experienced leaders help groom emerging leaders and companies.
  • They agreed with the objectives of the Data and AI proposals, discussion revolved around efforts to create a Canadian privacy framework (compatible with GDPR) and a Canadian AI Council, specifically around commercializing AI.

What we'll do next

  • The Table members will reach out to engage other stakeholders over the summer.
  • At the same time, members will focus on refining the proposals and drafting the final report.
Date modified: