What is technology, exactly? Or innovation? These days, technology is so ubiquitous it’s largely invisible. If the technological advancements of even the last 20 years were to suddenly disappear from our lives, even for a day, most of us would be lost. Even if we could get ourselves out the door and to work, what would our day look like? Could we do our jobs? Doubtful.
That’s because technology has completely revolutionized the way we do almost everything in our lives — the way we bank, the way we commute, the way we communicate, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the way we heat and cool our homes. So the concept of a ‘tech sector’, doesn’t quite ring true.
Calling technology or innovation a sector suggests that it’s a standalone sector that exists in parallel with other sectors and industries, like resources, healthcare, agriculture or entertainment. Instead, we believe technology to be inextricably embedded within those industries and every other. Today, to some extent, every company in every industry is powered by innovation.
Tech is not its own sector. It is much, much more than that. Every sector of the economy benefits from technology. We are seeing innovation and technology that was unimaginable 20 or 30 years ago in almost every sector. — Honourable John Horgan, Premiere of British Columbia
We’ve spent some time exploring some of the major innovation categories that are changing the way we as a society produce food, cure disease, educate learners, and essentially everything else we do, every day. The following eight sectors are huge drivers of the Okanagan economy and excellent examples of the kind of world-class innovation happening in our small region. There is no question that rural Canada has a lot to offer, and the Okanagan Valley is ripe with opportunity.
Agritech is the use of technology and innovation to improve the efficiency, quality, and profitability of farming and agriculture. What could be more important in a region that grows much of Canada’s fruit — and of course produces Canada’s best wine?
By gathering and analyzing important data related to factors like weather, soil health and the presence of pests, agritech helps farmers optimize their day-to-day practices, improve efficiency, reduce waste, and ultimately improve yield, making farming more profitable and sustainable.
Some Okanagan-grown agritech examples: Kelowna-basedKolibriuas Technology Inc, which uses drones to collect, process, and manage aerial imagery and remote sensing data to help identify weak spots and improve yields; and Penticton Wine Labs, which developed an innovative membrane filter designed to improve accuracy in testing.
Want more information on innovation in agriculture? Check out Forbes list of the most innovative agritech companies in 2017 or the Economist’s 2016 report on the future of agriculture.
Remember when withdrawing money from your bank account meant filling out a little paper slip, standing in line, and interacting with an actual bank teller? Banking and finance has come a long way, and that’s because of fintech, which is the use of technology to improve and innovate the field of finance and financial services, from accounting to wealth management. Originally, the term was used to refer to technology applied to the back-end of established consumer and trade financial institutions. More recently, though, ‘fintech’ has expanded to include any tech advances in the financial sector, including innovation in financial literacy and education, retail banking, investment, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Kelowna-based Refresh Financial uses technology to help consumers boost their credit scores, build savings, and get financial training. BlockCAT, another local success story, makes it easy for anyone to manage and deploy smart contracts on the Ethereum Blockchain with just a few clicks.
Technology has been life-changing for most of us. But in the case of medtech, it’s not just life-changing—it can be life-saving. Medtech is the use of technology to create, improve and innovate devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems that solve health problems and improve quality of life. Recent advances in medtech ensure earlier diagnosis, less invasive treatment options, shorter hospital stays and reduced healthcare costs . Examples of Okanagan-based medtech companies include QHR Technologies, which has developed a suite of technologies to manage medical records across the country, and Med Access, a web-based, highly configurable Electronic Medical Record system. Others include Curatio, XCo, P.A.C.E. Concussion, Core Health Technologies and Greenspace Mental Health.
It seems obvious that there is technology involved in getting humans to fly. What’s less obvious is what kinds of technology it takes. That’s what we call aerospace, which is the human effort in science, engineering and business to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics) for commercial, industrial or military applications. Satelites, big data and analytics, system integration, blockchain and advanced manufacturing are just some of the new technologies being leveraged to innovate in aeronautics. And some of that innovation is happening right here in the Okanagan, at companies like Beyond Aerospace, which works with wireless network operators and aerial services providers to meet demanding communications performance requirements. And in 2005, KF Aerospace (formerly Kelowna Flightcraft) was awarded a 22-year, $1.8-billion contract to manage the Canadian Forces’ Contracted Flying Training and Support (CFTS) Program.
Looking for opportunities locally? Check out Laura Mortensen’s Aerospace News blog or Okanagan College’s Aerospace Program.As our planet gets more crowded and our resources grow scarcer, cleantech (often used interchangeably with ‘greentech’) becomes increasingly vital. Clean technology includes any process, product, or service that reduces negative environmental impacts through significant energy efficiency improvements, the sustainable use of resources, or environmental protection activities.
The potential of this field is huge: Canada’s Economic Development Commission estimates that the opportunity for Canadian companies to bring their homegrown cleantech solutions to international markets is worth $1 trillion. By 2020, it’s expected to surpass $2.5 trillion.
Among the companies tapping into cleantech opportunities are Okanagan-based GreenStep, which uses technology and innovation help thousands of businesses, government bodies and institutions integrate clean and green technologies into their operations, improving their environmental performance while reducing both their costs and their ecological footprints . Vernon-based Piscine Energeticsis a win-win sustainability and commercial success story; they’ve helped reverse an environmental disaster while producing one of the world’s best aquarium fish foods.
For more information on cleantech initiatives, check out the seven B.C. companies that made the 2018 Global Cleantech100 list. Still want more? Check out the first edition of CleanTech News by new #OKGNtech columnist, Angela Nagy. If you remember the Atari and early Disney cartoons, you know how far gaming and animation have come in recent decades. What you may not know is that Okanagan innovators have played a role in getting gaming and animation to where it is today (and where it’s going next).
Local companies include Hyper Hippo, a gaming studio responsible for creating games like Adventure Capitalist, which Facebook named 'Best Instant Game of 2017'. Kelowna-based Yeti Farm, an animation studio responsible for shows like Mysticons and Rocket Monkeys, recently signed a partnership agreement with Vancouver-based Surprise Bag, Inc. and is now set to double in size within the year.
If you are looking for job opportunities in gaming and animation, check out our job board. Looking for skills training? Check out the new animation program offered by Okanagan College.When you hear the word ‘technology,’ much of what you immediately think of falls within the category of information and technology (ICT), which is the infrastructure and components that enable modern computing. This includes all devices, networking components, applications and systems that, combined, allow people and organizations to interact in the digital world. Some Okanagan success stories in this space include Bananatag, a Kelowna-based ICT company that provides email tracking, scheduling, templates, and internal communication tools designed to drive engagement and sales, and Loop Media Group whose online, mobile-first platform allows businesses to deliver real-time promotional offers directly to their customers’ mobile phones. Other ICT innovators in the Okanagan include Wtfast, RFG Software, Fresh Grade, Provision Data Systems, Big Bear Software, and eDynamic Learning.
Looking for more? Check out Matt Crowell’s new column on ICT News.
Given the time we live in, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the way manufacturers make just about everything has changed dramatically. Manufacturing has given way to advanced manufacturing, which has radically transformed—and will continue to transform—industry and production value chains and business models. With additive manufacturing, advanced materials, smart and automated machines (including the Internet of Things) and other innovations, advanced manufacturing is ushering in a new age of physical production.
What does that look like in the Okanagan? For one, there’s Waterplay, which supplies communities across the globe with aquatic play solutions manufactured at their Kelowna headquarters . Waterplay’s full suite of products includes aquatic facilities, community spaces, holiday parks, hotels and resorts, housing developments, water parks, and attractions. Other local leaders in advanced manufacturing include Vitalis Extraction, Tolko, Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing, and Axis Forestry. If you want to engage in advanced manufacturing in the Okanagan, there’s good news. UBC Okanagan recently announced that it will build a revolutionary new space for research and development activity in the region. Situated on a 30-acre parcel of land at the institution’s Kelowna campus, the Innovation Precinct will be a physical and intellectual hub for innovation and expertise. Learn more about the Innovation Precinct’s inaugural research venture with Avcorp Industries.