P.G. well-placed in tech sector

British Columbia's tech sector is growing. It's not just growing in Vancouver, where the province's biggest companies and organizations currently reside. It's not just growing in Victoria, where they expect the local tech sector to become a $10 billion economic contributor by 2030. And it's not just growing in my old hometown of Kelowna, where the Okanagan has emerged as one of the province's premier tech hubs.

No, B.C.'s tech sector is growing everywhere - and that means huge opportunity for regional communities all over the province.

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That includes communities that have historically been driven by traditional industries, like mining and forestry. That includes communities who have direct access to high-quality talent from a local university. That includes communities who benefit from a strategic geographic location and an emerging pool of entrepreneurs.

In other words, that includes communities just like Prince George.

At Innovate BC, it's our mandate to ensure that the benefits of our thriving tech sector are felt by everyone throughout the province. To effectively achieve this goal, we financially support tech accelerators across British Columbia, including Innovation Central Society (ICS) in Prince George. Our partnership with ICS has given us a firsthand look at the local tech and the exciting opportunities that are stemming from this new wave of industrial innovation.

Organizations like ICS, Northern Development Initiative Trust and the City of Prince George have played a critical role in diversifying, supporting and growing the city's tech sector. Companies like SparkGeo, Ascentech, and Volcanic Gaming are prime examples of tech companies who have benefitted greatly from both industry and government support and are now driving innovation across northern B.C.

As communities across B.C. embrace the benefits of a growing innovation economy - an economic model centred around knowledge, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation - I see Prince George having the potential to become a provincial leader in two key areas:

Cleantech

As one of the founding members of the Emerging Economy Task Force - a government-led initiative that forecasts how global trends and emerging technological advancements will shape the future of B.C.'s economy - it's very clear to me that clean technology will be at the centre of every major government, industry and academic-led initiative in the coming years.

The B.C. Government is placing an added emphasis on cleantech, as highlighted by their new CleanBC initiative. With the emergence of a local cleantech cluster, a thriving and nationally recognized bioeconomy and the presence of 70 clean technology firms already established in the region, Prince George has an incredible opportunity to lead the province into a new era of sustainability.

Furthermore, the R&D coming out of UNBC, as well as the access to the largest amount of harvestable wood biomass in Canada, are key factors that can position P.G. at the forefront of cleantech research and innovation in B.C.

Industrial innovation

Tech adoption is helping traditional industries like mining, forestry and construction become more efficient, competitive, and profitable. This is particularly important in Prince George, where some of the biggest resource companies in the region - like Canfor, Carrier Lumber, and Spectrum Resource Group just to name a few - are continually investing in new technologies. When you consider that northern British Columbia has one of the province's strongest natural resource sectors, Prince George tech companies have a unique opportunity to sell their services back into the local market and use their innovation to solve real business challenges that can spur both the local and provincial economies.

With more than 10,000 tech companies employing more than 114,000 people, B.C.'s tech sector continues to be a driving economic force for all regions of the province. With the existing infrastructure, support, and talent already in place, Prince George is primed to usher our province into a new age of industrial innovation and dramatically change the way all regions of B.C. work, live, and play.

-- Raghwa Gopal is the president and CEO of Innovate BC, the provincial crown agency that connects B.C. innovators to funding, resources and support.

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