On the cutting edge: Canada is where you need to be for MedTech

Daniel Dooks, Regional Director, Atlantic, Invest in Canada

Lab with computers

Invest in Canada is a proud supporter of the 2020 Virtual Medtech Conference, streaming live from October 5-7th, 2020. There’s never been a better time to tell the story of a world-class medical technology ecosystem with advancements being made from coast to coast to coast. Read on to discover more about Canada’s compelling life sciences industry, of which medtech is a significant part—as well as the unique advantages found in Atlantic Canada.  

Canada: a global force in medtech

Canada is an attractive destination for investors who are looking to capitalize on our innovative business culture, established R&D infrastructure, and talented workforce

A global leader in digital radiography, in-vitro diagnostics, cardiovascular devices, dental implants, and home health care, Canada is home to more than 6,000 life sciences companies and the industry employs over 31,000 people in manufacturing alone. Canada is the world’s 8th largest medical device market and the lowest-cost G7 country for companies who specialize in biotechnology, product testing, and clinical trials. The industry plays an important role in Canada’s economy and is supported by both the federal and provincial levels of government with incentive programs covering R&D, capital investments, and hiring a workforce.  

There are significant life sciences clusters throughout the country. The Québec-Ontario Life Sciences Corridor is North America’s second largest industry cluster and is a major global center. The region is home to 1,100 innovative companies and a talented and diverse workforce. Several academic institutions deliver 490 undergraduate and graduate programs in biological and bio-medicine sciences. 

In this region alone, over $1 billion CAD has been invested in medical research by public and private entities. Ontario in particular boasts more that 1,300 medical device firms including important global players such as Medtronic, GE Healthcare, Stryker, and Johnson & Johnson. Together with global-leading health research facilities and a collaborative business ecosystem to support innovation — including MaRS, North America’s largest urban innovation hub — there are more than 26,000 people working in this sector that collectively earn close to $13 billion in revenues annually.  On the west coast, the province of British Columbia has more than 300 companies specializing in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, medical devices, medical technologies, and digital health. BC’s medtech industry is well integrated into the overarching provincial life sciences ecosystem, which includes government, industry, research facilities, and academia. 

One doesn't have to look far to see the results of our global appeal. The world’s ten largest biopharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Bayer, Roche, and Pfizer, are established in Canada, many with significant R&D and manufacturing operations.  

Beyond the Canadian clusters in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, Canada's four most eastern provinces offer unique advantages to global investors. 

Regional advantages for medtech: Atlantic Canada

The provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (PEI), and Newfoundland & Labrador have a combined population of 2.4 million and a GDP of $105.8 billion CAD. They enjoy a prime geographic location that allows companies to collaborate with partners in both Europe and North America during regular business hours. 

Atlantic Canada map

More than 112,000 students from 115 different countries are enrolled in the region’s 16 universities and 43 college campuses, resulting in 32,000 annual graduates. When combined with the existing workforce and favourable immigration policies, companies can access the workforce they require to thrive.  

In addition, Atlantic Canada is an ideal location for R&D with award-winning facilities and access to generous incentive programs, including provincial top-ups on the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credit

Quality of life is also an important factor to consider when choosing an investment destination. With average real estate costs just over $250,000 CADcommute times below 20 minutes, and access to vibrant urban centers and natural beauty, it is no wonder employees have an average job tenure of 9 years in Atlantic Canada. 

Nova Scotia: leading facilities

The province of Nova Scotia has more than 100 companies participating in the life sciences industry and several supporting organizations including BioNova and the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre who advocate on behalf of the industry. Additionally, the province is home to several leading facilities. 

The Canadian Institute for Vaccinology, located in the provincial capital, Halifax, is focused on infectious disease research and has conducted hundreds of industry-led clinical trials of vaccines. Their 24,000 square foot facility which includes a 7,000 square foot full containment challenge unit is designed to support Phase 1-2 clinical trials in pediatric and adult populations. The Brain Repair Centre specializes in dealing with an assortment of issues arriving from disorders involving the brain and nervous system. Their research focuses on new treatments that can improve and save the lives of affected individuals.  

Medtech companies such as BlueLight Analytics, founded out of Dalhousie University, are developing innovative solutions that improve light curing outcomes in the dental industry. BlueLight’s work in this field was recognized with the Best in Class 2019 Emerging Technology Award by Cellerant.   

New Brunswick: Canada’s destination for digital health innovation

With a local ecosystem of over 330 engaged organizations made up of business, academia, industry associations, and government, New Brunswick has what it takes to succeed when it comes to Digital Health Innovation. Combined with attractive infrastructure, access to talent, affordability, and a bilingual workforce, it isn’t hard to see why the province is home to leading companies such as IBM and Siemens.  

The Atlantic Cancer Research Institute has a team of 50 dedicated people working closely with Canadian and international partners to positively impact patient care through research in liquid biopsies and targeted treatment. 

The province is also home to the New Brunswick Center for Precision Medicine which was built as a collaboration between the l'Université de Moncton and the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute. The $26 million facility acts as an incubator where new and innovative technologies and companies are born and builds upon the university’s strong biomedical research capabilities.  

Strong industry associations, such as BioNB, enhance and maintain the strong business environment and support individual businesses as they develop and expand. 

Newfoundland & Labrador: A living lab

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is working closely with partners like Genesis, Memorial’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, and the Bounce Health Innovation Initiative to establish vibrant life sciences and medtech industries. Memorial University collaborates with businesses to provide research support and a steady stream of talent. Genesis is the province’s innovation hub and has been supporting life sciences companies for over 20 years. Providing programming and guidance to companies of all stages, their efforts have helped many companies become commercial success stories including Verafin, which recently closed the largest venture capital funding deal in Canadian history, raising $515 million CAD in 2019

Eastern Health’s Living Lab works closely with industry partners to create technology-enabled solutions. Having secured relationships with many well-known global partners including Medtronic, IBM, GE, Mobia, and Deloitte, the living lab is creating exciting healthcare solutions that will allow the province to become a testbed for new technologies and products.  

Prince Edward Island: A hotspot for bioscience

Based primarily in the provincial capital of Charlottetown, PEI’s Bioscience Cluster is comprised of more than 60 companies, seven research institutions, and North America’s first business accelerator dedicated to the commercialization of technologies based on natural product chemistry. The Cluster is anchored by multinational companies like Sekisui, a Japan-based producer of in-vitro diagnostics products, which invested in PEI in 2011 and has since made its Charlottetown location its main manufacturing site in North America.  

PEI is home to one of only five veterinary colleges in Canada and as a result, has a significant concentration of expertise as it relates to animal health. You can read more about PEI’s advantages in Invest in Canada’s article, Atlantic Canada: Surprising Facts that Global Investors Should Know

While it is impossible to fully detail all the advantages found in Atlantic Canada in one article, we’ve highlighted a list of seven companies to watch in the coming weeks and months. 

7 medtech companies in Atlantic Canada to keep an eye on: 

  • BreatheSuite (St. John’s, NL): Creating technology to correct the improper use of inhalers 
  • Coloursmith Labs (Halifax, NS): Developing contact lenses to overcome colour blindness 
  • Picomole (Moncton, NB): Developing a machine learning screening model for lung cancer 
  • Populus Global Solution (Fredericton, NB): Building the world’s most efficient health information solution 
  • Sequence Bio (St. John’s, NL): Using genomic data to improve drug discovery 
  • Sona Nanotech (Halifax, NS): Commercializing a COVID-19 rapid response antigen test 
  • Spring Loaded Technology (Halifax, NS): Producing the world’s first bionic knee brace 

Invest in Atlantic Canada 

Invest in Canada is Canada’s investment promotion agency and is here to support your company as you consider opportunities in Canada. If you would like to learn more about how Canada and its value proposition can assist you in reaching your goals, please do hesitate to contact us. Also, if you would like to learn more about Atlantic Canada, check out our article – Atlantic Canada: Surprising Facts That Global Investors Should Know

Through its regional office, Invest in Canada works with partners in Atlantic Canada to connect global investors with business opportunities. To learn more about each of these organizations, visit their websites: OpportunitiesNBIgnite FrederictonNova Scotia Business Inc.Halifax Partnership, Cape Breton PartnershipInnovation PEI, the City of Charlottetown, the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador, and the City of St. John’s.