KELOWNA - Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Andrew Wilkinson were joined by local technology entrepreneurs today to announce that the Province has made a commitment to invest up to $6 million toward the development of the new state-of-the-art Okanagan Centre for Innovation.
“Becoming the next made-in-B.C. success story like HootSuite or Club Penguin is no easy task - that’s why we’re investing in this project to help give people in our tech industry a competitive advantage,” said Premier Clark. “This new centre will help entrepreneurs get their companies up and running, and launch Kelowna not only as a national tech leader but a globally recognized destination for tech investment and entrepreneurial development.”
Construction of the six-storey, 9,850 square-metre (106,000 square-foot) centre, which will be located adjacent to the Okanagan Regional Library, is expected to begin in late summer and is anticipated to be completed in early 2016. The innovative centre will provide work space for budding local technology entrepreneurs, students and companies at a minimal cost. In return, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to collaboratively develop their ideas, gain invaluable experience and grow their businesses further with companies and mentors, like Accelerate Okanagan, who also will share office space in this building.
“This new technology centre is the perfect addition to Kelowna’s already booming tech sector, providing up-and-coming tech companies and entrepreneurs with a workspace ideally suited for networking and collaboration,” said Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services. “The centre will play a key role in innovation and growth in the region, driving the creation of new jobs and helping build economic prosperity and diversity here in the Okanagan.”
The $35-million project is being funded largely by the Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group, who will also own and operate the building. The project was created by a diverse group of creative minds including: community, civic and academic leaders including representatives from private industry, Okanagan College, University of British Columbia, Accelerate Okanagan and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.
The City of Kelowna has agreed to a long-term lease of city-owned land valued at more than $2 million in the heart of downtown Kelowna to support economic growth and revitalization. The city will also receive ownership of a portion of the building that will be leased back to the Okanagan Centre for Innovation to provide non-profit space.
“The City of Kelowna is excited to be a part of a project that will entice bright, young entrepreneurs to create more jobs in our growing downtown,” said Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray. “Our investment in this facility underlines council’s commitment to support progressive initiatives that contribute to a sustainable, knowledge-based economy.”
The Province will own a portion of the centre, which will be reserved specifically for local start-up tech companies at a minimal cost. The provincially owned space in this building will act as an in-between location for companies that have completed their participation in the Accelerate Okanagan Venture Acceleration Program and are still at a venture stage, relying on securing flexible space.
“This project has come together because of the focused effort of a broad range of community leaders, all sharing a strong vision for the economic future of the Okanagan,” said Jeff Keen, Okanagan Centre for Innovation spokesperson. “We have been encouraged by the support provided by both the City of Kelowna and the Provincial government, commitments which show innovation and technology entrepreneurs everywhere that we are serious about supporting local development of this industry.”
Investing in this project will help deliver on government’s commitment to encourage innovation and the growth of British Columbia’s technology sector.
- Kelowna is the third-largest tech hub in B.C.
- Accelerate Okanagan is a delivery partner of the BC Innovation Council’s Venture Acceleration Program and a member of the BC Acceleration Network, providing resources to students, entrepreneurs, startups and early stage companies.
- Accelerate Okanagan has engaged 90 companies, which in turn have raised over $8 million and created more than 225 local jobs.
- The tech sector is the third-largest contributor to B.C.’s economy, making up 7.6% of B.C.'s gross domestic product and producing $23.2 billion in annual revenue and $3.1 billion in exports. There are 9,010 tech companies operating in B.C. today, and the tech sector provides 84,070 jobs for British Columbians.
- Provincial funding will be provided on completion of the building in exchange for ownership of strata title.
Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group: www.okanaganinnovation.com/kelowna-innovation-society
Accelerate Okanagan: www.accelerateokanagan.com
BC Innovation Council Venture Acceleration Program: www.bcacceleration.ca
Office of the Premier
Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services