Unveiling Metro Vancouver's Global Competitiveness: Insights from Invest Vancouver's Journeys
From Burnaby to Boston and beyond, we asked Invest Vancouver staff what they’ve learned about the Metro Vancouver region’s competitiveness, advantages, and opportunities on a global stage.
The Metro Vancouver region is an innovation powerhouse, drawing attention from global investors, thanks to its dynamic blend of research, leading technologies, sustainability, and unrivaled expertise.
Invest Vancouver is the Metro Vancouver region’s economic development leadership service, created to advance equitable opportunity and more broadly shared prosperity for all residents of the region. They work to secure strategic investment, promote the region to a global audience, and advise decision-makers through forward-thinking economic policy analysis.
Invest Vancouver staff have had a busy spring, working on attracting investment through “inbound” missions of potential investors visiting the region, and travelling to “outbound” international events. Staff have not only been crisscrossing the Metro Vancouver region, but also the globe. They’ve picked up some new wisdom from their travels.
From Burnaby to Boston and beyond, we asked Invest Vancouver staff what they’ve learned about the Metro Vancouver region’s competitiveness, advantages and opportunities on a global stage. Read on to discover more about what they had to say.
Investment attraction is a team sport
Invest Vancouver sought to introduce international organizations to what the region has to offer at Collision. With 36,000 attendees from 118 countries descending on Toronto in June for three days of content, deal-making, and connections, Invest Vancouver President Jacquie Griffiths says it’s important that economic development and investment attraction agencies treat opportunities like the so-called “Olympics of Tech” as a team sport, rather than an individual event.
“Investment attraction is a team sport: the value of working together as one region in attracting opportunities is clear,” says Griffiths. “The Metro Vancouver region is small compared to many of our competitors like Toronto, Montreal, and Seattle. In order for us to stand out in the eyes of investors, we need to collaborate and harness our collective strengths.” That sounds like gold-medal thinking to us.
Seeing is believing for international investors
Alongside traveling to global events outside of the region to meet with potential investors, Invest Vancouver staff also host individuals from around the world who come visit the region for delegations, site visits, and events. This June, Bryan Buggey, the organization’s executive vice president, and Vlad Oujegov, an investor services consultant, got to play tour guide to some of the 850 guests that attended the hy-fcell conference. On the microphone for a region-crossing bus tour, they showed off some of the meaningful projects that are getting launched, including UBC’s SHED (Smart Hydrogen Energy District) and HTEC’s new hydrogen production facilities in south Burnaby and North Vancouver.
According to Buggey, these sorts of engagements provide an invaluable opportunity to show off some of the region’s key assets.
“Our site tour itinerary was very popular, with more than 120 people attending,” he said. “Overseas companies were impressed with the expertise that we have here and recognize Metro Vancouver as a world-class R&D and innovation hub, which bodes well for further foreign direct investment.”
Invest Vancouver staff represented the region at events across Canada and internationally this spring. Photo: Invest Vancouver
Play to your strengths and win
“Playing to our strengths is the right path: we need to continue to harness home-grown innovation by supporting our ventures to grow here and succeed internationally,” says Lejla Uzicanin, VP of data, research, and policy.
Uzicanin leads Invest Vancouver’s dedicated research team, who dive deep into local industries and capabilities. Recently, Foresight Canada and Invest Vancouver hosted a panel on one of the Metro Vancouver region’s niche cleantech sectors: water tech. The panel featured speakers from the WaterCampus Leeuwarden project within the Netherlands. The case study offered a path forward to support clustering within the region based on the success of their triple-helix model, which encourages government, industry, and academic collaboration.
Over the past year, Foresight and Invest Vancouver have worked closely with the goal to strengthen water technology in the region. Uzicanin says that these kinds of collaborations should continue: “With Invest Vancouver’s dedication to building partnerships both locally and globally, I am confident in Metro Vancouver’s trajectory towards a prosperous and sustainable future.”
Embrace the lab coat: those “in the know” know our region
Boston, Massachusetts is recognized globally for innovation in biotech and life sciences, driven by research capabilities (hello, Harvard and MIT!). In early June, the Invest Vancouver team had a whirlwind week at BIO International Convention, the largest global event for the biotechnology industry.
“It’s clear from the conversations we had at BIO that Metro Vancouver and its life sciences ecosystem is increasingly recognized on the global stage,” says Megan Henwood, an investor services consultant. Even better news: once companies know about the region, they want to join the party. “We’re recognized for our strengths in innovation, R&D, and world-renowned universities. Those who aren’t already doing research or clinical trials here have the desire to join our ecosystem.”
Strengths in sustainability are a competitive advantage
Of course, the region is known for having a clean and green attitude towards sustainability. This makes the Metro Vancouver area a great place to live, and also is a unique strength that helps attract like-minded companies in many industries to do business here.
This includes companies in the digital media and entertainment industry. “The region’s motion picture industry is truly committed to reducing its environmental footprint, and this commitment helps to attract productions and business to the region,” says Karen Lamare, a business development consultant for Invest Vancouver.
Lamare recently saw this first hand at the opening of the Bridge Studios Griffiths facility, a new 5-acre purpose-built studio complex in Burnaby. “So many studios here are championing sustainable practices. Bridge Studios is committed to making Griffiths Studios a 100 percent fossil fuel-free facility; Martini Film Studios in Langley is heated using 100 percent renewable natural gas; and the City of Vancouver is developing a city-wide network of clean energy power kiosks at popular film locations that could eventually reduce the number of generators used by the film industry by one-third.”
Invest Vancouver staff and partners promoted what the region has to offer at events including Collision in Toronto and BIO in Boston. Photo: Invest Vancouver.
Opportunity remains to clearly articulate the region’s tech brand
The bad news: it’s not all smooth sailing on the international stage. The good news: that means there is massive opportunity for our region not only to grow, but also to define its own brand as the next-gen hub for innovation.
Gregory Freeman, Invest Vancouver’s senior economist, travelled to London Tech Week and the AI Summit London to promote the region’s tech sector and learn about what’s next in tech. “Since our region boasts a vibrant technology scene with strengths in multiple software verticals, AR/VR, gaming, and much more, it was jarring to be asked by an international crowd: ‘Oh, do you do tech in the Vancouver region?’,” says Freeman.
Even people more familiar with Canada — senior officials with major U.K. firms with operations in Central and Eastern Canada — admitted they knew little about the economic landscape west of Toronto. “A decade after Bloomberg called Vancouver ‘the new tech hub’, there is still work to do getting the word out; other Canadian regions have had economic development arms doing this work for years,” said Freeman. “This is our time. With the AI Summit underscoring the coming wave of AI-based businesses, the Metro Vancouver region and its growing collection of 120 applied AI firms will have even more to promote.”
With its vibrant innovation, sustainability, and unparalleled expertise, the Metro Vancouver region has become a magnet for global investors. Invest Vancouver's efforts as a regional body, showcasing Metro Vancouver’s strengths and playing host to international visitors, prove that when it comes to attracting investment, Metro Vancouver knows how to steal the show and secure a bright and prosperous future.