This article was co-written by Jeffrey Smith, Partner and National Lead, Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare, and Drew Baillie, Senior Manager, Management Consulting, KPMG in Canada
Canada is fast becoming a nerve centre for emerging technologies, yet its long-term potential pivots on our ability to attract and support today's industry pioneers. That starts with tackling the most critical risks facing start-ups: access to talent, capital, and a regulatory environment that encourages growth.
The market for high tech talent is global, and is highly competitive. Countries around the world have prioritized investments in emerging technologies to drive growth. The challenge of our universities and colleges will be to produce enough graduates to fuel our progress in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and Internet of Things (IoT) innovations. We require not only a renewed national emphasis on skills development and job creation, but measures to make Canada more competitive among its global peers.
By some measures, Canada has been a leader in emerging technology research, but has not seen those efforts come to market as quickly or profusely as other jurisdictions. Measures must be taken to help tech companies take root and flourish. It needs to be easier for entrepreneurs to access start-up grants and funding, and key business resources and services. Government should take a customer centric view to build and support connected service portals to serve this community. Additional efforts should also be made to enable start-ups to become scale-ups by providing competitive access to capital and enhanced support to access export markets in a connected, client-centric manner.
Moreover, the government itself can support start-up growth by becoming a more viable, tolerant marketplace. That means reducing regulation roadblocks, ensuring reliable and consistent cash flows, and adopting a procurement approach whereby it tenders the problem, not the solution. It also means becoming more tolerant to risk and patient when it comes to supporting innovation.
Tied to this is a need for a more flexible regulatory framework; one which can quickly adapt to new technologies as they arise and address issues of data ownership and privacy, safety of new technology, issues around algorithm assurance, and policy issues regarding the labour force.
Lastly, courting the tech leaders of tomorrow requires getting ahead of the 5G revolution. There is no denying 5G will re-define all aspects of our lives and enable organizations to push the boundaries in everything from artificial intelligence to automation, IoT to augmented reality, and beyond. Countries that launch 5G spectrum auctions first will enable companies to own the technology and the patents and have first mover advantage. As such, Canada should consider moving up the date for a 5G spectrum auction from 2020 to 2019.
Having a seat on the global stage means bringing the best start-ups to our table. And as competition for high-tech talent mounts, now is the time to make Canada a more supportive, collaborative, and opportune hub for tech industry trailblazers.