Summit showcases made-in-B.C. technology
Among the electric cars, 3D printers and drones on show at the BC Tech Summit were a number of distinctly British Columbian inventions: the TreeRover—a tree-planting robot designed by two University of Victoria students; PROXXI—a wearable electricity detector that notifies miners and electric line workers when they are approaching high-voltage electrical fields; a drone that monitors pipelines and tree lots in the backcountry for activity; and a drone from Thompson Rivers University for monitoring and managing cattle remotely.
It's technologies like these that the provincial government hopes to promote with its BC Tech Strategy, an education and venture funding initiative targeting the province's 80,000-person tech sector.
More than 2,000 participants from the tech industry, the public sector and local universities packed the Vancouver Convention Centre for the B.C. government's annual B.C. tech conference. For the provincial government, it was an opportunity to roll out its new tech strategy, a policy platform to support B.C.'s $13.9-billion tech sector. And by hitting the traditional bugbears of funding and restrictions on talent, it has made one industry organization happy with it. "The government has moved a long way towards the things we believe will grow our sector," writes Bill Tam, president and CEO of the B.C. Technology Industry Association, in a note on the conference.
The strategy is divided into three prongs: facilitating access to capital for made-in-B.C. startups, addressing the industry's current and future need for workers, and bolstering market access to B.C. companies. At the centre of that strategy is a new $100-million fund for investing in early stage startups, for which the government hopes to appoint a fund manager by the spring.
As part of its education initiatives, the provincial government has also committed to realigning funding, a portion of the $450 million the province spends on post-secondary priority initiatives, toward programs that lead to tech sector occupations. Those initiatives are important as they address one of the sector's key requests: more training for tech workers.