BCBusiness + Innovate BC
Bernard Achampong

Bernard Achampong (Ministry of Attorney General) announces the 12 finalists for the AI Justice Challenge.

Innovate BC’s work ensures benefits of a thriving tech sector are felt throughout the province—and around the world

Early on, Innovate BC (formerly the BC Innovation Council) enjoyed considerable success fulfilling its mandate as a service centre that connects small and large innovators to provincial funding, tools, resources and support.

But the Crown corporation’s services have evolved dramatically, as its various initiatives demonstrate. “Our Venture Acceleration program is especially significant because it helps entrepreneurs adopt a proven business model based on best practices for growing technology companies,” says Neil Huff, Innovate BC’s Head of Business Development. “This, along with providing support to ignite innovation, has made us a one-stop shop for our ever-growing tech sector, which is solving real problems that benefit B.C. and the entire world.”

Huff adds: “We have a proven record of helping entrepreneurs start companies and, as we move forward, we’re becoming more involved in scaling them.”

One of Innovate BC’s most exciting programs is its Innovation Marketplace initiative, which Huff describes as “a means of linking tech buyers from government and the private sector with tech providers. This is crucial, because industry and government need to transform their business practices, and small and medium-sized technology companies know how to do so—and we can bring the two together.”

The two parties are brought together through a challenge process, and Huff cites as the most recent example the B.C. Ministry of Attorney General which, via Innovate BC, is actively engaging the innovator community to help solve their business challenges with AI. 

The solutions it seeks include a smart online guide (an aid to help people complete forms easily and correctly);an auto transcriber; and an intelligent reviewer (a system that can intelligently parse a document and retrieve salient points quickly).

Huff says: “We’re consulting with industry partners to help the attorney general, and we expect the outcome will be as successful as when we linked B.C. Stats with five different companies, which were developing prototypes that could be modified to provide the organization with a platform to generate reliable data on the housing market. One of these companies ultimately became a B.C. Stats supplier.”

Bernard Achampong, executive director, policy and service reform at BC Public Service, Ministry of Attorney General, Court Services Branch, points out: “Being on the leading edge of innovation can be a lonely place without a partner, but Innovate BC is our partner. We chose to work with Innovate BC because of their expertise, tremendous relationships with B.C. innovators and experience with challenges.”

Another recent challenge involves the mining giant Rio Tinto. Brent Volk, that company’s technical services manager, explains: “While we have some of the most advanced aluminum smelting technology in the world installed at BC Works, one of our biggest challenges is integrating leading-edge technology into the surrounding operations and supporting business practices. An example of this is stockpile measurement, the subject of our first innovation challenge with Innovate BC, where we see an opportunity to move away from infrequent measurements using traditional surveying methods towards more real time, automated measurements using scanning technology.”

Volk adds: “We see the challenge process facilitated by Innovate BC as a great opportunity to tackle these sorts of real-world problems with innovative home-grown solutions, while at the same time improving our position in a broader network of regional and provincial businesses.

Huff, who is a clean-tech entrepreneur, says: “We’re currently securing new partners with whom to run more challenges in 2019, and our goal is to undertake as many as possible because of the positive results we’ve achieved to date.”

He adds that large corporations and SMEs alike can benefit from associating with Innovate BC, and a good starting place is to check out its website: www.innovatebc.ca/marketplace.

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with Innovate BC