Fruitful Tech Hub in B.C.’s Okanagan Region

Fruitful Tech Hub in B.C.’s Okanagan Region

May 16, 2018 Posted by Abby Pollen

British Columbia’s Okanagan region is best known for delicious fruit, world-class wines and eco-adventure tourism. Those qualities are now contributing to employee attraction and retention for tech industry giants like Disney Interactive and numerous startups. People from across the province have been flocking to the area for affordable infrastructure, attractive quality of life and now, for opportunities in the tech sector.

Kelowna in particular is rapidly becoming a high-tech hub. From local startups to new offices of established companies, the Okanagan Lake city is growing a significant tech community. Since 2016, the tech industry in Kelowna has grown by over 30 percent, earning billions and employing a large portion of the local area.

That’s good news for the graduates of universities, colleges and technical institutes in the region. Kelowna’s Centre for Arts and Technology offers programs that provide students with real-world hands-on experience and knowledge in a range of digital media fields, and Okanagan College, the BC Institute of Technology Kelowna campus and Thompson Rivers University all offer tech programs as well.

In 2017, UBC Okanagan had its largest class of students yet with approximately 9,000 registered. That’s partly due to the exciting technological innovation taking place there. For example, one group of researchers has developed a new technology that can produce living, 3D printed bio-tissues through a process they call direct laser bio-printing. They can create artificial tissue at a much finer resolution than previously achieved and have a 95% success rate of sustaining healthy, 3-dimensional cells. Those qualities make the tissue an ideal surface for growing cells used for research, and may result in advances in tissue replacement and cancer treatments.

Students gain exposure to career options and incubators through events like the Revelstoke Tech Summit hosted by the City of Revelstoke and Startup Revelstoke. The event featured a presentation by David Ascher of Buddybuild, an open-panel discussion led by Simon Wex of Adobe and a career tradeshow with participation from Parks Canada, the City of Revelstoke, BC Hydro, Hummingbird Drones, the Canadian Avalanche Association, the Centre for Arts and Technology, Shopify and others.
The Okanagan Innovation Centre, funded in part by the Province, is a six-storey, state-of-the-art centre designed by entrepreneurs, community and civic leaders to help build Canada’s technology community. The Centre is in the heart of Kelowna and houses everything from two-person start-ups to large-scale technology firms with a business incubator and low-cost, flexible work spaces.

Metabridge, now in its 10th year, is a community of seasoned entrepreneurs who mentor and support Canadian technology Founders and CEO's. They facilitate programs throughout the year which culminate in an event each June. The Canadian Accelerator Summit was hosted in Kelowna this March and included speakers from Techstars, MaRS, Communitech and the Lazaridis Institute.  

The Okanagan has done such a good job of informing and supporting startups that DestinationOneTech, an IT staffing agency, has noticed that a lot of university graduates are choosing to stay in Kelowna. And where there are a lot of eager and well-educated young techies, there are a lot of great ideas. Accelerate Okanagan is a tech incubator that has supported 165 companies through their startup program since its inception in 2011. They now have 633 tech businesses listed in the Okanagan's profile, with the sector employing over 7,600 people.

Telecommute options let tech staff work from anywhere, and the Okanagan region is making the most of that flexibility. Jean Marc La Flamme founded Mountain CoLab, a Revelstoke company offering shared work spaces anyone can rent, with private and open concept facilities and all the required amenities including incredibly fast 1 Gigabit fibre-optic internet. He is also the executive in residence for the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology a non-profit organization working to build a recognized, vibrant and prosperous technology community in the West Kootenay region by connecting and solving problems for entrepreneurs.

With access to some of the best eco-tourism, agri-tourism, smart city innovation and startup support, the Okanagan has the perfect blend of business and pleasure to attract business and retain staff. As a result, it is fast becoming a vibrant tech hub. Whether you are interested in starting a business, growing your business or networking with other professionals, we have resources to assist you. Connect with us on LinkedIn or Twitter, or face-to-face at one of the events listed on our events page.  


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