It’s been a difficult year. Not only have we had to continually adapt and adjust to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 pandemic, but British Columbians have faced record heat waves, forest fires and flooding all in the same calendar year. As we continue to face uncertainty due to new variants and restrictions, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the good things that happened in 2021.
We started off 2021 with a focus on skills development. In February and March, we allocated 300 online learning subscriptions to BC-based companies to help them brush up on their digital skills. Through LinkedIn Learning and Skillsoft, founders, entrepreneurs, interns, and other staff at tech and non-tech companies took 2,000 online courses and watched 8,500 unique lesson videos this year.
The beginning of this year also brought the final months of the first round of our Digital Economy: Rapid Response and Resiliency program. Over the course of the program, we helped just under 1,000 small businesses across B.C. adopt digital technologies and develop digital skills to help them maintain or even increase profits during the pandemic. These past two years, Innovate BC has played a key role in supporting B.C. businesses across industry sectors and helped our economy in its recovery since the outbreak of the pandemic. This would not be possible without our partners and we are very grateful for the role they play in B.C.’s innovation ecosystem.
With spring came awards season. This May we hosted the first ever BC Aquaculture Innovation Awards. The event encourages sustainable growth, competitiveness, and adaptability of the aquaculture sector in BC by funding innovations that solve challenges faced by aquaculture. After careful consideration, the judges selected 10 BC companies as finalists who competed for one of two $150,000 prizes and a fan favourite prize worth $25,000. ICYMI see who won here.
And just a month later, we heard from our latest round of Ignite winners at the 2021 Ignite awards. This year Innovate BC awarded over $1M to four B.C. research and development projects in the areas of biotech, cleantech, mining and robotics. Read more about the winners here.
This summer we were so excited to re-launch Digital Skills for Youth. This initiative provides a grant of up to $25,500 for companies to hire a young professional. In addition, people hired through this program can receive up to $4,000 for training costs. And in just one month we had 400 applications to the program – truly showing how many B.C. companies are looking to hire young, fresh talent.
Towards the end of summer, we were so excited for two significant announcements. First, the Vancouver Economic Commission launched Angels for Climate Solutions, a program funded by Innovate BC and that aims to increase the flow of capital investment into B.C.-based, early-stage climate technology startups.
In September, the B.C. government launched the highly anticipated redesigned Innovator Skills Initiative. Through this program, more than 3,000 people from underrepresented groups throughout the province will have more opportunities to join B.C.’s booming tech sector. The Innovator Skills Initiative provides B.C. companies with grants up to $10,000 per employee hired for technology jobs and tech-enabled roles. In the nearly three months that the program has been open, Innovate BC has received over 1,200 applications and is thrilled to be able to provide this support to B.C. businesses and under-represented people in the tech sector.
It was a busy fall with the announcement of another new initiative. Innovate BC contributed $300,000 to Palette Skills, whose program is designed to help Canadians land a job in B2B or tech sales quickly. Their SalesCamp program is now available in B.C. for the first time, the first cohort of the pilot began in October.
The fall also brought the annual New Venture BC Competition, presented by Innovate BC – an event that we look forward to every year. The competition showcases our province’s next generation of innovators that are bringing bold and courageous solutions to market. To learn more and see who this year’s winners were, click here.
A month later, we asked the winners of the New Ventures BC competition if they’d share their learnings and advice with entrepreneurs and founders in our audience. Moderated by our President and CEO, Raghwa Gopal, we were thrilled to host an informal panel discussion about the trials and tribulations that tech founders face, from those who have been there, done that. Our panelists provided some incredible insights and advice to viewers in our audience – if you want to find out what they say you can read our recap article here.
We look forward to continuing to work together with government, our industry and academic partners, and B.C. businesses to foster innovation in our province in the years to come. Thank you to all our partners, supporters, and program participants for another great year of supporting tech and innovation in our province.
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