The value of partnerships in strengthening Canada’s bio-economy

Asian business woman handshake.

Companies operating in Canada’s vibrant and dynamic biotechnology sector look for ways to grow and maintain a competitive advantage on a global scale. Industry associations, like BioTalent Canada, answer this call by committing themselves to creating organizational designs that support small- and medium-sized enterprises.

In 2012, BioTalent Canada began its transition from a Sector Council association reliant on core funding through the federal department of Employment and Social Development Canada to an independent association with a business model focused on partnership.

Since its inception, BioTalent Canada’s partnership network has brought together over 55 bio-economy employers, national and provincial industry associations, municipalities, post-secondary institutions, service providers and immigrant serving agencies; all working to strengthen the Canadian bio-economy through skills development. The BioTalent Canada partnership program represents the largest bio-economy network in Canada.

“When investors and other potential sources of funding evaluate the opportunity before a company, they look not only at the science being developed, but the expertise, experience and skills of the team,” says Rob Henderson, President and CEO of BioTalent Canada. “We help these companies navigate the challenges of recruitment and retention: the talent needed to realize their innovations.”

BioTalent Canada has been able to leverage their partnerships to provide the bio-economy with new thought leadership in HR solutions, project management, training and labour market analysis. This leadership complements the research, reports, The PetriDish™ job board, and other products and services developed to ensure growing biotech companies can attract the right candidates.

Among its most successful initiatives, the Student Work Placement Program has helped over 850 students, since 2017, gain the skills and experience to be career-ready upon graduation. This work-integrated learning program not only bridges the gap between industry and academia, but forms part of the recommendations outlined in the Government of Canada’s Health/Biosciences Economic Strategy Table (HBEST) report, placing an emphasis on the development of talent and skills to drive the bio-economy.

As the organization continues to focus on identifying future skills and talent development for the bio-economy, BioTalent Canada is aligning itself with like-minded organizations who understand the importance of investing in human capital. They are connecting with the innovators shaping the future of Canadian biotechnology and life sciences.

A notable example is Novo Nordisk Canada Inc., the Canadian affiliate of a global healthcare company with more than 95 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care, who joined BioTalent Canada’s partner network this year. The partnership was a perfect fit for two organizations who take pride in empowering employees to make a difference in Canadian healthcare.

“BioTalent Canada’s mission as a catalyst for growth in Canada’s bio-economy aligns perfectly with our own focus on innovation and our values, called The Novo Nordisk Way,” says Angie Ng, Director, Human Resources at Novo Nordisk.

The Novo Nordisk Way is a set of guidelines which represent their core values – keeping employees engaged, innovative and patient-focused – a method that has clearly proven itself. Novo Nordisk currently employs more than 300 people in Canada and has maintained a focus on employee-centred values and career advancement and was recognized as a Top 100 Employer in Canada in 2015 and 2016.

“Partnerships with companies like Novo Nordisk Canada have allowed us the opportunity to tap into the industry to develop projects, products and services to address the two key challenges still facing small- and medium-sized enterprises – access to capital and access to talent, added Rob Henderson. “Novo Nordisk and our network of other corporate and academic partners strengthens our ability to address future skills and ensure we have maximum access to top talent.”

BioTalent Canada is also currently conducting a national study of Canada’s bio-economy labour market supply and demand to help the industry identify current and future skills shortages, encourage strategic workforce planning and alleviate labour market challenges by producing updated and accurate labour market information for the Canadian bio-economy.

Henderson feels Canada’s bio-economy is at a pivotal stage in growth and development. “With the launch of Canada’s five innovation superclusters and a greater emphasis on skills and talent, biotech companies are in a position to take Canadian innovation to the next level. For us, it is an exciting time to be at the centre of this talent innovation and help the industry flourish on a global stage.” He said.