Pathway to grow innovation in B.C.

THE government has released the final report of Alan Winter, B.C.’s first innovation commissioner.

The report, Putting Innovation to Work for British Columbia: Growing B.C. Companies, outlines five recommendations focused on helping innovative B.C. companies thrive and grow, while supporting more innovation across all sectors of the economy.

The recommendations are as follows:

1. fund the establishment and operation of “innovation precincts” across B.C.;

2. support the development of emerging technology clusters;

3. use the CleanBC plan as an economic driver;

4. incent and protect intellectual property; and

5. invest in leadership talent development strategies.

“I welcome this report and I thank Dr. Winter for his commitment to making B.C.’s economy more resilient and innovative. His observations reflect the voices of the many people with whom he spoke during his term, and his recommendations come at an important time,” said Michelle Mungall, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, on Monday. “Our government is committed to building B.C. back from COVID-19. This report will inform our work as we support an economic recovery that creates family-supporting jobs across British Columbia.”

The innovation commissioner is a key component of the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC Green Party caucus to champion B.C.’s tech sector and help it access talent and capital, as well as the national and international connections it needs to succeed.

Adam Olsen, interim leader, BC Green Party, said: “As we rebuild our economy from COVID-19, we have an opportunity to become more resilient to future challenges. Dr. Winter’s report provides clear advice for how we can harness innovation to grow businesses in B.C. and strengthen sectors across our economy.”

Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, added: “Dr. Winter’s recommendations will be invaluable in helping B.C.’s tech sector to advance and are of particular importance, given our collective challenge of economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19. B.C. is well placed to support and apply technology and innovation as we build a sustainable, low-carbon economy that will benefit all British Columbians.”

Alan Winter, former innovation commissioner, said: “I appreciated the opportunity to be B.C.’s first innovation commissioner over the past two years, and in particular the many discussions I have had throughout B.C., federally and internationally. My recommendations are focused on helping to grow B.C. companies and are intended to be affordable, actionable in the short term and reflect the advice I have heard repeatedly. These steps will help position B.C. to prosper in the post COVID-19 economy.”

Raghwa Gopal, President and CEO, Innovate BC, said: “Our goal is to ensure that the benefits of our thriving tech sector are felt by people in all regions of the province. We will continue to work with stakeholders to develop and deliver programs and services that help tech companies start, scale and stay in British Columbia.”

Quick Facts:

* Winter completed his term with the B.C. government on February 4, 2020.

* The Putting Innovation to Work for British Columbia: Growing B.C. Companies report is the innovation commissioner’s final report and a follow up to his 2018 progress report, Observations on Innovation in British Columbia.

* Mungall’s mandate letter outlines actions to support and advance tech and innovation. These actions align with the recommendations outlined in the final report.

* The B.C. government has acted on many of the recommendations from the innovation commissioner’s 2018 progress report, including:
– A new Quantum Algorithms Institute at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus that will be the first step to grow the Surrey Innovation Corridor.

– Leading an Emergency Management Innovation Cluster initiative, which aims to match government emergency management problems with innovative, made-in-B.C. tech solutions that are scalable and exportable.

– Releasing the Technology and Innovation Policy Framework in 2019, which is informed by the observations of the innovation commissioner. The framework is being used as a guide when developing new programs, reviewing existing programming or making new funding decisions.


  1. Innovation in any tech sector should be up to the challenge, by competing on the global stage. As good as the panel/inventor is, in any sector, about promoting their own ideas with taxpayer’s funding, they and their funder should be ready to change directions at any moment. Global innovation is moving at the speed of light and one endeavour can be obsoleted in less than 3 months, by another global innovator/competitor.  

    BC isn’t the epicentre for every new innovation, so every new idea/project must be vettted and ready to collaborate with other research centres/partners as soon as possible or sink like most new tech start-ups.

    Politicians are not inventors/manufacturers/science or International legal experts and can buy into any story. And then throw money away based on their lack of knowledge or poor second-hand information. Business intelligence should be conducted continuously by specific category experts. The process is endless, but it can’t be ignored, because money can be wasted chasing the wrong tech innovation/project. Typically, inventors hang on to their idea until they’re bankrupt and compromise everyone around them.

    I’ve been involved with start-ups, disruptive technologies and some IP, over the past 25 years. Some innovations have been improved, eclipsed and currently, I see one BC backed innovation being eclipsed by new pending announcements in the next few weeks. These BC tech developers are highly skilled individuals, and may not change direction readily, if at all – follow the financing money.  

    BC has many tech innovation supporting centres/organizations with the promise of funding. Unfortunately, many do not have the skills (i.e. legal, technical and science – preferably all three) and they may not know when a new innovation is being stolen, eclipsed or revised and by whom. If you want to see a waste of taxpayers dollars, all you need to do is visit Canadian Trade Commissioners.

    Thank you for letting me make a few comments. The forging might be construed as an opinion, but I’ve lost years of time and dollars after some associates wouldn’t follow the rules (technical, business intelligence, financial, legal). Yet, I’ve met a number of trusted experts over the years who have provided direction regarding many new innovative projects. I like to think I’ve offered them the same wisdom, insights and courtesy. Although the discovery process never ends, even after a product/solution is accepted in the market place. Blogs/media news which I will receive tomorrow will expose new insights and ideas.

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