Metro Vancouver, a hub of scientific innovation and research, continues making waves in the global life sciences industry.
In fact, BC is Canada’s fastest-growing life sciences sector, employing roughly 20,000 people at over 2,000 companies.
With advancements in vaccine technology, cancer treatment, gene editing, and antibody discovery, the region has positioned itself at the forefront of cutting-edge research and development.
Add in serious capital—$1.3 billion raised in 2021—BC’s life sciences sector has never been more robust.
However, despite many accomplishments, the life sciences industry in Metro Vancouver faces challenges that could hinder its growth, including high operational costs, limited access to wet lab space, and talent acquisition difficulties.
This is all according to a comprehensive report titled “Life Sciences in Metro Vancouver: Shaping a Globally Prominent R&D Hub.”
The report, from Invest Vancouver, highlights the region’s achievements and identifies key recommendations to further boost its growth in the life sciences industry. Based on extensive interviews with regional firms and an analysis of 20 years of economic data, the report aims to raise awareness of the industry’s successes and solidify its reputation as a research and development powerhouse.
One of the key recommendations highlighted in the report is the need for “wet” lab space, which refers to laboratories where chemicals, drugs, or other material or biological matter are tested. A lack of sufficient wet lab space has emerged as a major bottleneck for the growth of the life sciences industry in Metro Vancouver.
To address this problem, the report suggests building supported or partially funded wet lab spaces to ensure that the region can maintain its position as a research and development hub and foster further growth.
“It’s time for Metro Vancouver to claim its reputation as Canada’s life sciences research and development hub,” said Jacquie Griffiths, President of Invest Vancouver. “Building supported or partially funded wet lab spaces would maintain the industry’s position as a research and development hub and spur growth.”
Another crucial factor for the industry’s growth is attracting the right talent. The life sciences industry relies on a pool of highly trained, specialized workers, and increasing the size of this talent pool is critical for its growth.
The report recommends actively attracting talent with the required skill sets through dedicated talent attraction staff, recruitment missions, and international student retention efforts.
“Life Sciences in Metro Vancouver” also emphasizes the importance of cost controls for the capital-intensive life sciences industry. Early-stage companies in the industry face significant costs, and finding ways to control expenses and stretch resources is essential for survival.
Recommend in response is exploring economies of scale, such as through pooled buying power, to help individual firms lower their costs and thrive in the competitive landscape.
Alongside the report, Invest Vancouver has launched the “Embrace the Lab Coat” campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the industry’s successes and solidify its reputation as a leading research and development hub.
The report and campaign were unveiled at an event that brought together government representatives, industry leaders, and associations to discuss the findings and chart a path forward for the industry.
Invest Vancouver’s report and campaign have received support from key stakeholders in the industry, including Linda Buchanan, Chair of Invest Vancouver Management Board
As a Mayor and a public health nurse, Buchanan has witnessed the positive impacts of advancements and innovations in the life sciences industry on individual health and the economy.
“Invest Vancouver’s Life Science Report highlights the critical role this industry plays in building a diverse, future-focused, and resilient regional economy for all,” said Buchanan. “As the region’s economic development leadership service, this research will inform how we can unlock additional growth and investment opportunities in life sciences across Metro Vancouver.”
Kenneth Galbraith, CEO of Zymeworks, also expressed his support, stating, “Invest Vancouver’s latest report captures very well the strengths and needs of the life sciences industry.”
Galbraith believes that coordination across government, industry, and agencies will unlock new opportunity and potential throughout the regional economy.
“Coordination across government, our industry associations, and investment attraction agencies can help us overcome barriers to unlocking further growth in an industry that is increasingly paying a prominent role in our regional economy,” he said.
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