COVID-19 has disrupted the world and has slowed down the global economy. Canadian government has done a commendable job by focusing on COVID-19 containment and immediate relief by collaborating with health organizations and other authorities. IRCC has stated that Canada’s priority has been one of protection and preparation: protecting people’s health and safety while preparing business for a smooth transition to recovery. This successful response to coronavirus has showcased the strong relation among life science and professional health care management in the country.
The Canadian life sciences sector is a vital contributor to Canada’s innovation economy, and one of the country’s fastest growing industries participating towards medical innovations that will enhance the health-care delivery and patient care in Canada and around the globe. This Canadian sector comprises occupations within research, development, and manufacturing. This sector includes small and medium-sized companies developing diagnostics, bio pharmaceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and medical appliances, as well as international companies with research, development, and production operations in Canada, serving both domestic and international markets.
British Columbia has one of the largest bio technologies and life sciences sectors in Canada. The province plays an important role in the growing global life sciences industry. There are 310 life sciences organizations in British Columbia with estimated employment of 14,000 people contributing $1.03 billion to provincial GDP growth. The BC life sciences sector includes a broad range of companies, government agencies, healthcare research organizations and academic partners.
In parallel with Canadian government initiatives, there are various companies contributing towards development of products and services to curb COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these companies are:
Thornhill Medical is a medical device innovator company based in Toronto. This company has been producing and delivering revolutionary portable ventilator systems in large quantities to health care facilities across Canada.
Roche is a global company pioneering in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics of advanced science. They are the world’s largest biotech company focused on personalized healthcare. This company created a COVID-19 antibody test which will help determine if a patient has been exposed to coronavirus and if the patient has developed antibodies. This test is supporting the country’s economic recovery and is recognized as a significant contributor to Canada’s testing capability.
Hexoskin is a smart shirt company based in Montreal. Since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic this company has been working with the government and health systems in the US, UK, and Canada to support health care services. They have been successful in developing a high-tech shirt that monitors COVID-19 patient’s vital signs from the comfort of their home. Hexoskin supports hospitals by freeing up space and easing the burden on staff via installing patient-monitoring systems in hospitals and setting up own telehealth teams.
Medicago is a company rooted with a long track record of innovation and perseverance. They are situated in Quebec and have successfully created a nominee for a coronavirus vaccine using their innovative plant-based technology. They were the pioneer in Canadian clinical trials of any COVID-19 vaccine.
Sona Nanotech Inc. is a medical device company based in Halifax. Sona has been awarded a $4.1 Million grant by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as per the NGen Initiative to accelerate COVID-19 test development. They are creating a ground-breaking antigen test to detect the presence of COVID-19 beforehand, rather than detecting antibodies after infection which can be used at point of care and deliver results in as little as 10 minutes.
Quantum Silicon Inc. is an Alberta based company, applying nanotechnology in electronics to develop faster and more energy-efficient technologies by manipulating matter at the atomic scale. Their CEO states the importance of government incentives in building a stronger industry.
Although there are hundreds of jobs available in the Canadian life science sector, Canada is struggling to meet labour demand needs and requires highly skilled foreign individuals and innovative entrepreneurs in search of investment opportunities or ways to expand their existing business abroad.
Canadian government is trying to help bridge the labour gap by providing pathways for skilled foreign workers to live and work in Canada. Two of these pathways include the Express Entry System and the Provincial Nominee Programs which not only made the immigration process easier but also fast-tracks the visa process, allowing newcomers to immigrate to Canada with their families in as little as 6 months.
Incentives provided by the Government
The government implemented various incentives to support Life science development in Canada, such as:
- Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), which provides funding to large projects with an objective to stimulate innovation for a better tomorrow in Canada. SIF brought forward projects to fight against COVID-19 and this program was expanded by additional funding to support the clinical trials for COVID-19 related vaccines and therapies.
- The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED), which gives tax credits and refunds to eligible companies in Canada and is the country’s largest R&D tax credit program. Some examples include operations research, data collection, engineering, testing, psychological research, or design.
- The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), which funds research in universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions.
- Genome Canada, which is responsible for providing large scale investment to help develop new tech and create solutions to challenges faced on a national scale.
- Mitacs is a non-profit research organisation that funds technology-specific internships and fellowships through Canadian universities by partnering with Canadian academia, private industry, and the government.
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), a funding agency supporting innovative improvements in the health care sector.
- Canada Brain Fund (CRF), which supports and funds Canadian brain science.
Along with these strategies, comes the Global Skills Strategy, which allows Canada to enrich its skilled workforce by bringing in highly skilled individuals from abroad. This strategy was developed by IRCC to help employers find highly skilled workers faster and bring them to the country within 2 weeks.
The Start-up Visa Program gives foreign investors the opportunity to start or invest in a business anywhere in Canada. Through this program applicants are also able to get permanent residency in Canada, provided they meet government requirements.
Canada is an ideal place for nanotech companies to invest and expand as life science sector is supported by a booming group of academia, world-class talent, government support and investors from around the world. Innovation in life sciences requires a collaborative ecosystem of partners such as hospitals, research centres, universities, technology incubators, start-ups, scientists as well as multinationals – and every day they are collaborating in Canada.
Canada’s life sciences businesses are among the most lucrative sectors where companies with global footprint are investing. This is because Canada offers a qualified workforce and is globally rated at the top for having the most educated workforce in the world, with over 55 per cent of its population possessing a tertiary qualification. Along with this Canada is the only country in the world, able to trade freely with every G7 nation. This free trade boosts opportunities to increase investment revenue by offering preferential market access to more than 1.5 billion consumers in 51 countries.