This demand and its corresponding economic surge will require economies around the world to adapt to not only an already changed climate and environment, but also to seek more efficient and less environmentally-impactful ways to grow food and manufacture goods. Within the social and environmental imperative of addressing this global challenge lays the enormous economic opportunity for the innovative solutions biotechnology provides.

Canada’s advantage

Importantly, Canada has in place many of the components necessary for global competitiveness and biotech innovation. Indeed, Canada is home to a thriving national biotech ecosystem which includes several regional clusters and brings together over 500 biotech SME’s, world-class universities, research institutes, large multinational pharmaceutical companies, and a highly educated workforce.

With its historical roots in vaccines and agricultural innovation, Canada’s biotechnology industry has already had a significant impact both domestically and internationally. New medicines and vaccines are improving the lives of millions of individuals with disease and helping create healthier societies more broadly.  

"If Canada is to compete globally and reap the benefits a robust domestic biotech innovation industry can deliver, then it must keep pace with other jurisdictions and attract investment."

Biotechnology is central to the composite materials being used to make lighter and more fuel-efficient airplanes, cars, and trucks, while also supporting the creation of new renewable fuels to power them. Biotechnology is also allowing for the creation of non-fossil fuel based chemicals, lubricants, cosmetics, and numerous other consumer and commercial products. And maybe most importantly for Canada, biotechnology is an essential part of the reinvention of the traditional economic cornerstone and job intensive industries such as forestry, energy, mining, and aerospace. All told, the national biotech ecosystem is an economic strength that positions Canada well to compete in the emerging global bioeconomy.

The global competition

But in the rapidly evolving and highly competitive global bioeconomy, resting on past achievements is not a recipe for success for the biotech industry and the sectors it supports. While Canada is certainly well-positioned, other nations are also acutely aware of the global opportunity nine billion people present and are quickly moving to develop and support domestic biotech sectors by implementing policy frameworks supportive of both innovation and investment.  

If Canada is to compete globally and reap the benefits a robust domestic biotech innovation industry can deliver, then it must keep pace with other jurisdictions and attract investment — the catalyst of biotech research and development. Investment is a fickle global tourist; it will travel the world and stay where it feels it is most welcome and secure. To attract investment, the ‘hosting conditions’ — regulatory oversight, taxation, industrial policy — impacting industry and investors alike must be as globally competitive as possible. This is absolutely essential to ensure innovative ideas are able to move from the lab to commercial success and ensure the economic benefits associated with the commercialization remain in Canada.

The global economic opportunity is an important one for Canada’s biotech sector and its associated health, industrial, agricultural, and manufacturing. Ultimately, the competitiveness of Canada’s economy more broadly depends on successfully developing and commercializing biotech innovations. In this context, industry and governments need to continue identifying gaps and working together to ensure Canada’s policy environment is as strategic and supportive as it needs to be.