There has never been a better time to invest in Ontario. Several valuable assets exist in Ontario, making it a hotbed for artificial intelligence, regenerative medicine, advanced therapeutics, biomanufacturing and clinical trials. The Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) is set to modernize the way government supports business.
Biotechnology Focus had the opportunity to interview Todd Smith, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade recently about the MEDJCT’s mission and Ontario’s future in the fiercely competitive global life sciences landscape.
Q: Noteworthy, the Ministry of Research and Innovation has undergone changes and is now under the MEDJCT. What is the vision for this new ministry?
Our government’s number one priority is supporting Ontario job creators, by making our province an attractive destination for investment, for companies to scale and grow and for talent from around the world. We are making sure we have the programs in place to attract business investment and support job creation. And we want to create conditions for growth by cutting red tape and working across the government to lower the cost of doing business in Ontario.3
The MEDJCT is committed to making sure our academic and other research institutions are generating economic growth and supporting job creation. We are modernizing our programs and assessing their relevance in driving economic growth in areas of investment attraction, research and commercialization, entrepreneurship and talent.
One of our other important goals is to ensure that our interests are well represented in all trade matters and negotiations to support the growth of new jobs and investment in Ontario.
Q: Ontario is a hot-bed for artificial intelligence, regenerative medicine, advanced therapeutics, biomanufacturing and clinical trials. This has led to the creation of valuable assets such as the Ontario Brain Institute, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Vector Institute and Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, to name a few. How is Ontario leveraging these valuable assets?
Ontario is fortunate to be home to a vast innovation ecosystem of world-class research institutes, commercialization centres, and universities and colleges.1 They’re constantly collaborating to keep science and technology on the bleeding edge, ensuring Ontario remains internationally competitive.
This innovation ecosystem is clearly paying dividends when it comes to attracting foreign and domestic talent. Last year, we added more tech jobs in Toronto than the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington, D.C2., combined, and there are currently more than 60,000 life sciences workers in Ontario.
Our reputation as a global leader in sectors such as AI and life sciences is driving interest from companies around the world, and we want them to know we are open for business.
Q: Last year, Ontario invested in the Sanofi vaccine manufacturing facility, how does this align with the mission of MEDJCT?
Our vision is to work with all businesses, large and small, to ensure a stable and competitive economy that protects workers and creates jobs, opportunity and growth. We are focusing our efforts on ways to support businesses that have a direct impact — reducing red tape and regulatory burden and enabling a competitive environment in which businesses can thrive and create good jobs. We are making sure that Ontario is truly open for business.
That’s why we are working hard on our new Open for Jobs Blueprint, which is designed to modernize the way government supports business. Business support programs will focus on four economic priorities: talent; research and commercialization; entrepreneurship and growth; and investment attraction.
The Open for Jobs Blueprint is built on four key principles:
1.Accessible: programs will be user-friendly and more readily available to make applying for them easier
2.Fiscally responsible: programs will use competitive rounds and fiscally sustainable tools, with only projects that demonstrate the most value to taxpayers receiving support
3.Coordinated and scalable: programs will reduce duplications across ministries and ensure that they respond to the needs of businesses; and
4.Effective: programs will be measured on impact and if they are delivering on their objectives.
Q: Life sciences is a fiercely competitive global industry, international collaboration plays a vital role. You recently came back from a trade mission to India where they have a strong footprint in pharmaceuticals and clinical trials. What were you looking to accomplish?
Ontario is committed to attracting investments in manufacturing and research and development to improve the life sciences industry’s competitiveness and keep these high-paying, good-quality jobs here in the province.
Promoting Ontario as an attractive jurisdiction for investment in key international markets will increase business opportunities that lead to job creation. By diversifying Ontario’s global trading partners and exports, we’re creating a climate conducive for business and economic growth.
The India business mission was a great opportunity for me to bring Ontario’s open for business, open for jobs message directly to business leaders across sectors that demonstrate a high degree of trade and investment potential for Ontario. While in India, I met with over 40 companies, including some from the life sciences sector, including Novo Nordisk India Ltd. and Jubilant Life Sciences.
I look forward to continuing a long and prosperous partnership between Ontario and India. Businesses choose the place that will offer them the best conditions to grow. In India, we delivered the message that Ontario is that place.
Q: Ontario is attracting significant investments from industry. Recently Samsung launched global artificial intelligence centres and Toronto was one of the few selected locations. What made Toronto an attractive choice?
Investment in the province has been growing, with major commitments from global powerhouses such as Samsung, among others. These investments can be attributed to Ontario’s reputation as a great place to do business, but also because of our abundance of highly-skilled talent.
Ontario is better educated than any Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development country, with 68% of Ontario adults possessing a post-secondary education.4 Toronto, specifically, is attractive because the University of Toronto (U of T) is among the best post-secondary institutions in the word. U of T is consistently ranked in the top 25 Global Computer Science Programs, and in the Top 20 Global Universities, according to U.S. News and World Report.5 Ontario also produces over 40,000 STEM grads per year.6
Lastly, we know that the best places to do business should also be the best places to live. Toronto currently ranks #16 for quality of life word-wide, and Ottawa, #18.7 Successful companies want to be in places that are inherently attractive to their employees, so it’s no surprise Toronto has become a top choice for industry investments.
Q: In March, an impressive $100-million donation was given to the University of Toronto, to build the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre and create Canada’s largest university-based innovation node. This is an incredible opportunity and asset for Ontario. What will this mean for the Ontario life sciences industry?
You know the ripple effect of throwing a pebble into a pond? Well this is a bowling ball. This landmark $100-million gift will power Canadian innovation and help researchers explore the intersection of technology and society – turbocharging advancements in how AI, biomedicine and other disruptive technologies can enrich lives.8
Now experts from an array of disciplines, including across the life sciences industry, will gravitate to Ontario.9 Whenever that happens, innovation is close to follow.
While pushing technology forward will always be a top priority, this unbelievable gift has opened the door to fostering exploration of the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies, including the very hot-button topic of artificial intelligence.10
Q: We understand that you will be attending BIO2019 in Philadelphia, PA. What are the ministry’s goals at BIO?
This year, the Ministry is focused on supporting all the great Ontario companies that will be attending BIO.
With over 1,900 life sciences companies in the province, it is important that our government creates an environment where they can thrive and create jobs. BIO is a great opportunity to promote the excellent work Ontario companies are doing. It’s also a great opportunity for us to tell the world Ontario is open for business, and open for jobs. There has never been a better time to invest in Ontario.