When evaluating Canada’s tech hubs, chances are that Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, or Waterloo are some of the first names that come to mind. Since 2016, these regions have created over 60,000 tech jobs annually, enriching Canada’s diverse, knowledge-based sector that comprises around 5% of the Canadian workforce. Jobs in Information Technology also provide some of the nation’s most competitive salaries, with the average industry salary in 2021 forecasted at $87,300. Despite the economic developments that these cities have provided in pushing Canada’s labour and innovation forward, it would be misleading to characterize them as the only components in Canada’s tech ecosystem. From east to west coast, here are four emerging tech hubs worth keeping an eye out for in the upcoming years.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
With a population of 431,500, Halifax is considered Atlantic Canada’s top tech centre. Originally home to fisheries and the oil and gas sector, the city has quickly become an attractive destination for tech-enabled sustainability initiatives that touts numerous benefits, including competitive business costs and local tax incentives. Additionally, entrepreneurs who have expanded their operations to Halifax have also cited human capital availability, and academic institutions (i.e. Dalhousie University) focused on developing engineering/science graduates as an asset.
In 2017, the Canadian Government launched the Innovation Supercluster Initiative, a $950 million investment seeking to cultivate region-specific innovation advantages by mobilizing SMEs, researchers, and institutions. For Atlantic Canada, this led to the formation of the Ocean Supercluster and Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE), two organizations that leverage ocean-specific technology and resources to advance Canada’s $36 billion maritime economy.
Dubbed “Silicon Prairie” by its Mayor Charlie Clark, Saskatoon’s recent developments make it a promising startup city in Canada. In 2019, Saskatchewan ventures received nearly $100 million in VC investment, an exponential growth from only $3 million in 2015. Additionally, over 50% of this funding directly benefited the tech sector, contributing $2.5 billion to the province’s GDP in 2017.
In response to this growth, multiple provincial initiatives have been created to empower investors and entrepreneurs. For instance, the Made in Saskatchewan Technology Program (MIST) acts as an accelerator for Saskatchewan-based gov-tech products by awarding a $10,000 contract to those who complete the program. Moreover, the Saskatchewan Technology Startup Incentive (STSI) offers a non-refundable 45% tax credit to early-stage investors in the province. As Saskatoon’s businesses expand in capability, the next prospect to track is their tech talent pipeline growth.
Kelowna, British Columbia
With numerous prominent companies, including Disney, Bardel Entertainment, Rogers, and Telus, Kelowna is quickly becoming Vancouver’s challenger in BC’s tech space. In addition to hosting startup retreats and gatherings, the city is home to Accelerate Okanagan, an incubator that provides programming for founders from concept to exit. One prominent event they host is the OKGN Angel Summit, an annual 10-week Bootcamp culminating in a $100k+ investment towards a startup. In general, these initiatives have contributed to the region’s 15% year-on-year growth since 2013; today, the Okanagan tech sector is estimated to be worth $1.67 billion. Finally, Kelowna’s scenic views, low cost of living, and modern downtown infrastructure make it an attractive destination for remote workers to settle.
As Ottawa’s neighbouring city, Gatineau is home to over 284,000 people and considered the nation’s cybersecurity capital. The city sources world-class talent from various disciplines, including telecommunications, autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing, to create sectors ranging from encryption and compliance to identity management. Notably, the Ottawa-Gatineau region includes over 90 cybersecurity companies and 65 research labs contributing to the cluster’s R&D initiatives. Finally, like Kelowna, Gatineau boasts one of Canada’s lowest living costs, an ideal prospect for employers.
Initially defined by their primary-sector industries, Halifax, Saskatoon, Kelowna, and Gatineau offer a promising future in Canada’s tech ecosystem. Low living costs, coupled with investor presence and government support, allow these cities to innovate across multiple areas. Interested in learning more about hiring tech talent in this industry? Be sure to reach out on LinkedIn or visit our website at globalskills.io.
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