It takes a village: New pan-government initiative aims to boost Canada’s economic recovery post-pandemic

For Canadian businesses who export goods and services, having the right knowledge and quick, easy access to support is essential to their success, at home and abroad. It’s also crucial for Canada’s future prosperity. 

International trade accounts for nearly 60% of Canada’s national economy – while simultaneously improving our standard of living, creating jobs, and driving businesses to become more competitive. This has never been more evident than it is today as we look back over the year and a half since the onset of the global pandemic. 

When COVID-19 struck, it underscored the importance of trade and collaboration in our recovery efforts as a nation. We quickly realized that building a stronger, more resilient future for Canada post-pandemic would require a coordinated and collaborative approach. Our ability to generate sustainable growth would depend in part on the toolbox of resources that businesses could access when exporting.  

While we already have a great ecosystem of government and agency services that serve tens of thousands of Canadian businesses each year, it became clear we needed to work more cohesively to boost our economic recovery. Through our research, we also identified several significant growth opportunities for sectors where Canada holds a comparative advantage. We wanted businesses to be able to capitalize on those opportunities and for us to be able to fuel their future growth.

With those goals in mind, the Honourable Mary Ng, Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, took action in July 2020, by engaging her portfolio and creating the cross-departmental Business, Economic and Trade Recovery (BETR) Team.

BETR Team members

As the chair of BETR and on behalf of EDC, I lead the coordination of these collaborative efforts, alongside these partner organizations:

With representation across departments, agencies and crown corporations connected to the Trade portfolio, BETR works on strategy and governance, while also conducting research, development, and execution for new areas of support.

Taking collaboration one step further

At its core, BETR is about putting the customer first. While we understand that exporting abroad can feel risky to businesses, we want our customers to know they are never alone. They have a solid ecosystem of strong, knowledgeable and coordinated government teams behind them ready to support them at every stage. 

When BETR first came together a year ago, we had two key priorities at the onset: first, to look at key export sectors with the most potential for immediate growth and examine how we could work together collectively to increase the impact for businesses in these sectors. The other priority was to connect directly with these sectors and listen to their challenges so we could quickly identify ways to help.  

Right now, we’re excited about furthering the success of Canadian companies across these three industries of the future:

Health technologies 

The global market for medical devices is set to hit $612.7 billion by 2025, and Canada represents only 1.9% of this growing subsector. Both medical devices and digital health technologies fall under the HealthTech sector. This includes a wide range of information technologies, electronic communication tools, and technological innovations used to prevent, treat, or improve health and well-being and health care service delivery.

While this sector is seen as having high growth potential, there are gaps that BETR is stepping in to fill. Currently BETR is working to improve the flow of connections by introducing health technology companies to relevant partners. We’re working on initiatives to help businesses overcome challenges related to product innovation, commercialization, access to capital, and procurement barriers. 

Agri-food and agriculture technologies

Since 2011, Canada has ranked as the world’s fifth-largest exporter of agricultural commodities and the 11th-largest provider of agri-food, supplying the world with a diverse array of products. As a significant contributor to Canada’s economy, our agricultural exports totalled $74.8 billion in 2020. As the world’s population continues to grow, the need for a stable global supply chain to support the need for food is crucial for our future. 

Businesses in the agri-food and agricultural technology sectors are well positioned for success with increasing global demand in niche markets such as plant-based ingredients, organics, non-meat proteins and dairy substitutes. The market is poised for ongoing technology and technical innovations in the farm, food and seafood sectors with the aim of improving production, profitability and sustainability.

The BETR team is currently working in partnership with other Canadian stakeholders such as the supercluster, Protein Industry Canada, Farm Credit Canada (FCC) and Agriculture, Agri-food Canada (AAFC), to identify ways to leverage the strengths of this sector. At the same time, we’re also monitoring market needs and helping overcome challenges through coordinating financial solutions, knowledge, and connections. 

Asia infrastructure

An estimated two-thirds of the world’s infrastructure investment needs are in emerging markets, with more than half in Asia. The global demand for infrastructure services and financing is rising rapidly but Canadian firms providing architecture, construction, engineering, and design, as well as consulting services, are encountering barriers to success in Asia. 

We’re working on developing initiatives that will position Canadian companies for success by increasing their access to market intelligence, streamlining project opportunity identification and dissemination, bringing together Canadian firms under a “Team Canada” umbrella, and providing more coordinated federal government support.

Results so far

To set up Canadian companies for ultimate success BETR has taken a startup-like approach with listening, learning, launching and then either scaling up or pivoting to the next option. What does this mean? The team has been actively gathering and taking note of the feedback from our network of partners and Canadian companies through various opportunities like interviews and roundtables as an example. As we identify businesses’ needs for additional support, we can test solutions on a small subset of businesses, and if successful, look to the BETR team to see who is best poised to offer a new product or service over the long term. In testing hypothesis quickly, we are better able to help them navigate more efficiently the winding roads of foreign markets and maximize their global footprint. 

So far, we’ve actively informed and brought awareness to growth potential and support available with over 42,000 companies across these three key sectors. Meanwhile, more than 1,500 Canadian companies have been successfully referred across the trade portfolio in a timely manner, to the right partner and for the right reasons since August 2020. 

No “wrong door” approach

In addition to increasing access to capital and problem-solving capabilities for Canadian entrepreneurs, we want businesses to know there is “no wrong door”. This means businesses who approach any member of BETR for assistance will quickly get referred to the right place, because we all understand the concept that “it takes a village” and the value each one of us could bring for your ultimate success. If you’re a business and looking for help reach out to EDC or any of the BETR members and we’ll guide you to the right place.

Businesses benefit from improved customer service when they get what they’re looking for quickly. This helps them not only reach objectives faster but also build up their confidence along the way. Our approach is also an opportunity for team members to formally align on supporting common objectives.

Whether to achieve near-term recovery or long-term sustained growth, BETR looks forward to continuing our dialogue with Canadian businesses in trade, working together and advancing their international growth. Their success is ultimately all our success because stronger exporting businesses will mean a stronger Canada.

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