Abbotsford Member of Parliament Ed Fast said Canada has room to grow when it comes to innovation investment. He laid out a plan for change in a discussion with local companies. He is pictured with BW Global Structures Inc. president Timothy D. Kendrick. Below, Kendrick demonstrates the innovative steel cutting robot in Abbotsford BW Global developed with help from federal government funds.— image credit: ALINA KONEVSKI/ABBOTSFORD NEWS

Recognizing that there’s room for improvement, the federal government reaffirmed its commitment to supporting business technological innovation on Wednesday in Abbotsford.

Member of Parliament for Abbotsford Ed Fast met with nine local companies that have benefited from pilot programs with the National Research Council.

The government has so far distributed over $840,000 to Abbotsford companies through its Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP).

“It’s the first time in Abbotsford’s history that I know of that we’ve had such a significant funding announcement for nine different companies in Abbotsford for driving innovation, and connecting research to industrial needs,” said Fast.

Although Canada has a lot of strengths when it comes to supporting innovation, Fast admitted that the country’s competitiveness on a global scale is its “Achilles heel.” Canada also has a lower level of business investment than countries such as Israel or Germany.

“Right now, we don’t rank high when it comes to taking innovation and commercializing it. We fall flat. We could do so much better,” said Fast.

BWGlobalwebBW Global Structures Inc.According to the MP, there are approximately one million small and medium sized enterprises in Canada, but only one to two per cent are exporting outside of North America. Only about 30-40,000 are exporting at all, and that mostly to the U.S.

“We’re looking to change that, simply because Canada is a great trading nation,” said Fast, who also serves as international trade minister.

Abbotsford-based greenhouse supplier BW Global Structures Inc. received about $100,000 through DTAPP, which it used to leverage its relationship with several Israeli companies.

“The software and robotic technologies we implemented with the help of DTAPP allowed us to instantly commercialize a revolutionary, new advanced commercial greenhouse design,” said president Timothy Kendrick. “The first prototype is being constructed for the BC School of Agriculture at the University of the Fraser Valley. This technology implementation allows us now to compete globally and to showcase Canadian innovation.”

A wide range of Abbotsford companies have so far received grants under the two programs, including a bakery, a kitchen cabinet manufacturer, an agricultural nutrient business, and a consulting firm.