The life sciences sector in British Columbia generates $14.4 billion annually but faces challenges in order to become a mature and established local industry

VANCOUVER, Oct. 21, 2015 /CNW/ - Life sciences have the ability to transform health systems, create skilled jobs, and grow a knowledge-based economy for British Columbia, according to a new report prepared by PwC for LifeSciences BC.

"The power of our industry begins with supporting innovation," says Paul Drohan, LifeSciences BC President and CEO. "Fostering, developing and scaling innovation increases the likelihood of rapid commercialization, and delivery of research that can be used to improve the lives of patients." 

According to The Life Science Sector in B.C.: Economic Impact Now and in the Future report, the province has a cross-industry impact on healthcare, technology, and manufacturing. The sector employs almost 180,000 people and contributes $14.4 billion to BC's GDP. And the industry is continuing to grow, especially in BC, which is outpacing other provinces across Canada. Between 2010 and 2014, BC's life science sector grew in number of companies (3.4 percent), direct employment (3.4 percent), average annual wage (5.0 percent), and estimated payroll impact (8.5 percent). Over that same period, the industry's B.C. tax contributions increased by 9.8 percent, from $417 million to $606 million. These figures, combined with the sector's annual GDP contribution, show the impact life sciences has on the province and the potential it has to become an established and world renowned industry.

In order to get there, the sector faces a number of challenges including:

  1. Access to Capital – B.C. has less access to capital than Ontario, and Canada overall faces challenges in procuring the investments needed to compete globally. In B.C., 84 percent of companies have less than 10 employees and many never become big companies, opting instead to license and sell but never grow locally.
  2. Access to Talent – cities like Vancouver are highly livable, but expensive; talent development needs to start in academic centres and universities need to attract innovators and entrepreneurs. B.C. is experiencing a talent drain with local universities attracting students who come to study but don't stay in the province or even in Canada after graduation. 
  3. Synchronization of various government organizations and regulatory processes – coordination between all levels of government impacts regulatory policy and funding. There are small pockets of assistance but no one is coordinating or overseeing this effort.
  4. Access to licensing and strategic partners – B.C. companies need help to access strategic partners to develop products and marketing strategies in order to sustain long term growth.

"Synchronization between policy makers is just one of the processes needed to ensure continued growth in B.C.'s life science sector," said Joyce Drohan, BC Healthcare Leader, PwC Canada. "A coordinated effort is required so that B.C. can foster the innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration needed to attract investors and further establish life sciences in the province."

B.C. has only 17 percent of the number of life sciences companies across Canada, falling between Ontario (41 percent) and Quebec (16 percent). While B.C. has more life science companies, Quebec's sector contributes to 24 percent of overall Canadian life science GDP compared to B.C.'s 12 percent. These numbers suggest that B.C. has more relatively small companies generating relatively less GDP.

The PwC report shows that B.C.'s life sciences sector is in the early stages of maturity and growing organically. If the industry receives the support it needs to face its challenges, B.C. could potentially increase its global innovation while also contributing substantially to the local economy.

A full copy of the report can be found at



LifeSciences BC is a not-for-profit, non-government, industry association that supports and represents the life sciences community of British Columbia through leadership, facilitation of investment and partnering, advocacy, and promotion of B.C.'s world-class science and industry both locally and internationally.


The methodology used to determine the definition of life sciences for the sector report included the following steps


Determine the core definition of life sciences in B.C.


Include additional industries in the expanded definition


Gather raw data from Statistics Canada


Determine weighting to each industry group


Calculate relevant life science metrics


The core definition of the life science industry is comprised of drugs & pharmaceuticals, medical devices & equipment, research, and research testing & medical labs. The expanded definition, which was used to determine the metrics, includes the aforementioned industries in addition to ambulatory health care services, R&D biotech research, R&D laboratories, R&D life science, hospitals, health and personal care stores, and other scientific and consulting services.

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About LifeSciences BC

LifeSciences BC is a not-for-profit, non-government, industry association that supports and represents the life sciences community of British Columbia through leadership, facilitation of investment and partnering, advocacy, and promotion of our world-class science and industry.

Life sciences sectors, from biopharmaceuticals and medical technology, to digital health and medical devices, are integrated into our organization and all that we do, ensuring that no life sciences sector is working in isolation — and that all sectors come together in a comprehensive, complementary and coordinated fashion.

Throughout the year, LifeSciences BC undertakes numerous programs and projects in support of these sectors. These include public policy initiatives, facilitating linkages between global industry and our local organizations, raising the profile of our industry internationally and thus facilitating investment and global partnering opportunities, and helping nurture economic development in British Columbia through the life sciences industry.

SOURCE LifeSciences British Columbia

For further information: Susan Ogilvie, Manager, Communications & External Affairs, Email:, Phone: 604-669-9909 Ext 106


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