Province updates its tech strategy

The province released an updated #BCTECH Strategy yesterday, which includes expansion of tech-related grad seats and co-op placements throughout the province to support growth in regional technology training and expertise.

The number of tech grads will increase by 1,000 per year in rural and urban areas by 2022, according to the government. Post-secondary tech degree program co-op placements will be doubled to over 1,400 students annually, and the Mitacs student research program will be expanded by two-thirds to over 800 internships annually.

The Canada-BC Job Grant will continue to help tech-sector employers to train new and existing staff in companies of all sizes and across all industries. Government will also continue to work with the First Nations Technology Council on their comprehensive skills-development program Bridging to Technology.  Other pilot projects will be launched to increase the participation of groups that are under-represented in the sector.

“Technology affects virtually every industry in our economy, across every region of the province. Increased training will bring more people into the technology sector, creating more high-paying, family-supporting jobs that are benefiting communities across the province,” said Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, in a press release.

Tax-related initiatives are also part of the strategy. Government is expanding eligibility for the Interactive Digital Media Tax credit to include augmented reality and virtual reality products designed to entertain. The Small Business Venture Capital budget has been increased by $3.5 million per year, a 10 per cent increase that will allow for up to $11.7 million in additional equity financing for qualifying corporations annually. And for the first time, companies will be able to participate in both credits at the same time – allowing for significant savings.

A new Innovative Ideas Fund will be launched to encourage government purchase of innovative technology products. A pilot “Startup in Residence” program will also be launched to assist with the test and launch of private-sector solutions to public-sector challenges. To help companies seeking to expand their market reach through exporting, the Export Navigator pilot program will be expanded from four to six regional communities.

Government has also announced the appointment of a new rural representative to the BC Innovation Council in order to even better connect B.C.’s lead accelerator with rural B.C.

These initiatives follow key investments contained in the original #BCTECH Strategy, which included establishment of a $100-million BC Tech Fund, as well as curricula changes and funding to support training, which will give every student the opportunity to learn coding by Grade 9. Students are already building robots and drones, creating websites and developing apps throughout the province.