Western Economic Diversification Canada
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What is Innovation?

Innovation is the process of transforming knowledge into new products, processes and services which, in turn, generate new economic benefits. For this process to succeed, a complete system must be available that supports the movement of a new idea from initial concept, through research and development, to a ready-for-market product. A highly developed innovation system, or "cluster", is focused on a specific area of strength and includes:

  • Universities, research facilities, industry, government labs, and other "knowledge infrastructure" that develop new technologies and a skilled workforce,
  • Early stage venture capital financing to help bring technologies to markets,
  • Industry associations and other organizations that link the players in the innovation system,
  • Firms capable of developing and adopting new technologies, and that are connected to local and global markets, and
  • A business environment that fosters innovation.

What's the WD Connection?

A stronger knowledge-based economy

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) supports the creation and growth of knowledge-based clusters in new economy sectors that contribute to an increase in knowledge-driven and value-added economic activities. In partnership with other levels of government and other partners, we make strategic investments to:

  • Support technology commercialization and adoption initiatives,
  • Enhance technology skills development,
  • Support applied research and development,
  • Strengthen knowledge infrastructure,
  • Increase community innovation,
  • Create linkages among members of the innovation system.

WD is supporting the growth of technology clusters in several key sectors, including:

  • Life Sciences – biotechnology, genomics, proteomics and health technologies,
  • Information and Communications Technology – new media, wireless technology, telehealth and geomatics,
  • Other Technologies – synchrotron, environmental technologies, composite materials and micro/nanotechnology.  

What funding is available?

WD supports a number of mechanisms that are helping to strengthen the Western Canadian innovation system:

  • Western Diversification Program (WDP) is the main program through which WD invests in projects that support our strategic outcomes related to innovation, business development, community economic development and policy, advocacy and coordination.
  • Western Economic Partnership Agreements (WEPAs) are multi-year funding commitments to strengthen economic activity and improve quality of life in western communities. WEPAs are cost-shared equally with each of the four western provinces, with a total of $200 million allocated to initiatives identified as federal and provincial priorities. Specific priorities in some regions include tourism revitalization, development and promotion of environmental technologies, and ground-breaking health technology research and development.
  • The Economic Development Initiative will invest $3.2 million in the West over five years to support business and economic development that encourages sustainable growth in Western Canada’s Francophone communities.   

What's been accomplished?

Learn more about how WD is enhancing western innovation by reading Working with the West or our magazine, Access West

In 2007, WD commissioned an independent consultant to assess the effectiveness of WD's investments in the life sciences sector from April 2000 to March 2006. The consultants estimated our $130.8 million in funding resulted in direct and indirect economic impacts of $189 million, contributing $88.9 million and to creating 1,654 jobs.

WD funding helps to attract additional investment in western innovation. For example, in 2006-2007, our $42 million investment in innovation leveraged $41 million from provincial government and almost $80 million from non-governmental organizations, industry and other partners. In other words, every dollar we contributed attracted another $2.88 from other sources.

For examples of WD projects and initiatives within this program activity area consult our success stories: Other innovation-related projects.

What's on the horizon?

WD will continue to act as a catalyst for innovation in Western Canada through partnerships and strategic investments that encourage technology development and commercialization. WD will also continue to foster emerging sectors, such as health innovation, that promise opportunity and benefits for western businesses, research institutions and Canadians.