Charlottetown’s Thriving Bioscience Sector
- The Charlottetown biosciences sector enjoys strong research support from various academic and research institutions situated throughout the city.
- Charlottetown is home to key experts in the field, with a long history of world-leading innovation in the biosciences.
- Charlottetown has strong regional collaborative relationships and access to key Canadian and American markets.
Charlottetown is drawing on its strengths of widespread academic and research excellence to build a bioscience sector that is innovative and constantly growing. With a great ability to diversify and expand into regional and international markets, Charlottetown is set to lead in the biosciences.
What are Charlottetown’s key competitive advantages when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment in the biosciences?
Charlottetown is a small city, a capital city, and the birthplace of the Confederation. This is where the Fathers of Confederation first met in 1864, setting the course to bring together the different provinces and territories to form Canada, which eventually took place in 1867.
Charlottetown is a small city but it has all the amenities of a large city. It has entertainment, fine dining, and lots of cultural activities that take place here in the city all year round.
Charlottetown has a collaborative working relationship with our provincial government and also with our sister communities to the east and west. When I refer to the capital region of Charlottetown, that includes Charlottetown the capital, Stratford in the east, and Cornwall to the west. We have a very good mix of regional connections but also provincial collaboration, which allows us to work hand-in-hand on projects that both the municipality and province will benefit from.
“Charlottetown has a collaborative working relationship with our provincial government and also with our sister communities to the east and west.”
The Holland College Centre for Applied Science and Technology will provide additional education and training opportunities for people working in the growing sector of the biosciences. PEI has a highly educated local workforce. We have 48,734 higher education degrees per 100,000 of our population. We are a population of 150,000. Charlottetown has an intelligence base that can work in a lot of different industries: bioscience, light manufacturing, and in the health and animal science fields.
I am impressed that we have the ability to go beyond just the bioscience field. There is research support from institutions such as the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), the Atlantic Veterinary College, the Charlottetown Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the National Research Council of Canada, which is situated on the UPEI campus. We also have private sector firms including Atlantic AgriTech, the centre for agriculture technologies in Canada. I am quite impressed that we have such a diverse field. The numbers reflect that we are moving in the right direction in diversifying our economy.
What are the most promising sectors within Charlottetown’s economy?
Charlottetown is a government town. Veterans Affairs Canada is a federal department here and is one of the only federal departments located outside of Central Canada. As a national department, it provides a lot of employment. We have our provincial government located in Charlottetown. Government services and education are very essential. We have two post-secondary institutions: Holland College and the University of Prince Edward Island, of which I am a graduate as well as my two children. It is a very proud institution, and part of the University of Prince Edward Island is the Atlantic Veterinary College.
“Charlottetown is diversifying into the biosciences, light manufacturing, and the cannabis growth business.”
These components make up a strong base to work from. Of course, tourism is a strong force here in Charlottetown because of its recognition from the Federal Parliament of Canada as the birthplace of Confederation. Fisheries and agriculture are also still important industries in the province, with tourism ranking third. We have to remember that diversification is very important for any community, whether it is a municipality, province, region, or country. Charlottetown is diversifying into the biosciences, light manufacturing, and the cannabis growth business. Dosecann Cannabis Solutions works primarily with edibles and is one of the companies here that is part of that diversification. I am a strong believer in diversification because if one sector drops, another sector can pick up the slack.
Why has Charlottetown focused on biosciences?
Prince Edward Island has leaders like Dr. Regis Duffy. Dr. Duffy was the founder of Diagnostic Chemicals, which was taken over by Sekisui Diagnostics, a Japanese firm. He then went into BioVectra, which worked on using hemp for medicinal purposes, and is now quite fluid in how it expands its business outreach. The federal government made an investment of over $144 million in BioVectra, expanding its operations not just here in Charlottetown but also in Windsor, Nova Scotia. The focus was also to get student scientists in the biosciences field involved.
Which areas of Prince Edward Island’s biosciences sector are the strongest?
The BioCommons Research Park on the west side of the city has a $30 million and 65-acre development area, with the potential to expand further. The areas that they get into are animal science and human health science, which is incredibly important with all the discussion over vaccines and our lack of capability nationwide to produce vaccines because of previous government decisions to get out of the vaccination business. The vaccination business is a potential sector for Charlottetown to look at—to be a regional or a national force in. Our connectivity to the New England states south of Prince Edward Island is key. Charlottetown is connected to a 75 million population market that is the envy of cities like Toronto and Montreal. Toronto and Montreal have connectivity through states like Vermont and Michigan but we have the ability to connect with our southern partners and also be part of a regional force with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
What foreign investments made in Charlottetown would you highlight?
Novartis Animal Health Canada is located in Charlottetown in the bioscience park. They are a world player in the bioscience field. We are also looking at the investment field with companies like Invesco. It is a trading company situated in Charlottetown since 2003. It started out with 27 employees and is now up to over 500 employees working in Charlottetown with the average age being 27 to 35. That is good for the economy because we want young people moving back to our community. The average salary is in the $30,000-plus range. Starting off new as a young professional in the investment field, Charlottetown is a great place to start. The environment here allows you to later move further beyond what Charlottetown has to offer in other areas of investment.
What is the perception of foreign direct investment in Prince Edward Island?
The global economy has always been part of what we do in this world. When looking at investments, whether foreign, regional, or national, you always have to do lots of due diligence. Again, this does not necessarily only apply to foreign investment.
“I welcome foreign direct investment and think that it is very good not only for the City of Charlottetown, but also for the province and country.”
Foreign investment tends to have more stringent protocols because first, it has to go through a federal vetting process, and then it goes through provincial processes before coming to the local economy. I welcome foreign direct investment and think that it is very good not only for the City of Charlottetown, but also for the province and country. With foreign investment, we can grow as a nation and within our community.