Bio-economy Facts

Bio HR Facts

Source: (Sequencing the Data - People - Driving Canada's Bio-economy, Labour Market Information Report 2013)


  • Change: Canada’s bio-economy has experienced a number of significant changes over the recent years and the industry has redefined itself.
  • Regional Distribution: Over half of  Canada’s biotechnology companies were from Ontario and the West. However, over the past five years these numbers have decreased from 60.3% (2008) to 57.6% (2013). Significant regional changes occurred in Quebec (which experienced a decline of 10.3%) and the Atlantic region (which experienced a growth of 3.6%).
  • Company Age: While the majority of newly formed companies originate in the West (23.4%) and in Ontario (22.4%), the Prairies report the highest percentage of companies older than 25 years.


  • Revenue: Over half of the companies generate more than $250K yearly, while 38.1% generate $249K or less.
  • Age and Revenue: Companies with Total Gross Revenue (TGR) of over $1M still tend to be older (in business for over fifteen years), while firms with TGRs of less than $1M still tend to be less than fifteen years old.
  • Subsector and Revenue: The highest percentage of companies reporting TGRs of $1M or more are in the Agri-biotech and Bio-energy sectors, while the highest percentage of companies reporting pre-revenue TGRs are in the Bio-health (22.9%) and Bio-industrial (22.2%) sub-sectors.
  • Biotech activities and Revenue: The percentage of companies with TGR under $1 million who allocate more than 70% of their budget to biotechnology-related activities dropped from 70.8% to 53.4% between 2008 and 2013.


  • Skills shortages: Still remain an issue with 33.2% of companies report skill shortages among staff, in line with the 34.4% reported in 2008. Of those reporting skill shortages, 40% indicate it had an impact on their company regardless of company size. Interestingly, the negative impact of skill shortages is consistent for both small and large companies.
  • Critical skills: 93.1% of companies expect interpersonal skills to be very important in the near future, closely followed by 91.7% business development skills and 89.1% management/leadership skills.
  • Vacant positions: Since 2008, there has been a decrease (9.1%) in the number of companies reporting unfilled biotechnology positions.
  • Non-senior openings: The highest percentage of unfilled positions at the supervisory/professional and non-professional levels are in manufacturing, quality control/assurance, distribution, and research and development.
  • Senior openings: Unfilled positions in senior management and executive levels are predominant in pre-clinical research, legal/intellectual property and business development.
  • Turnover: Turnover rates at all employment levels have declined between 2.5% and 11.6% since 2008.
  • Labour mobility: 34.1% of employees who leave for employment in another region move to Ontario. The next most popular regions are the Prairies and the West (12.2% each), the US (9.8%), and the Atlantic (7.3%).
  • Diversity: Companies are reporting employing less women (down by 11.5% from 2008), Aboriginal people (down 13.2%), people with disabilities (down 14.3%), US trained staff (down 7.3%), and Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs) (down 6.7%); however,  51.8% say hiring IEPs improves innovation.
  • Training: 64.7% of companies provide training for  their employees, down from 72.8% in 2008.
  • Outsourcing: There has been an increase over the past five years from 55% (2008) to 63.2% (2013) in all regions except for Ontario, where outsourcing has declined by 5.7%. Legal/intellectual property continues to be most often outsourced and has increased from 59% (2008) to 74.2% (2013), while HR tends to be the skill that is outsourced the least  and has slightly increased from 20.2% (2008) 23.6% (2013).

Full-time employment (FTE):

  • Less than 50 FTEs: The vast majority (80.7%) of companies have fewer than fifty FTEs, which is consistent with the 2008 data (81.2%).
  • Less than 10 FTEs: There has been a significant increase in the number of companies with less than ten FTEs, from 44.1% (2008) to 55.6% (2013).


  • Capital: The single greatest challenge to product and service development reported is limited access to capital which has increased from 65.9% (2008) to 73.8% in 2013.
  • Recruitment and Retention: Larger firms with more than twenty FTEs are more likely to face challenges in recruiting and retaining employees with relevant skills.
  • HR: Reality exceeded expectations as 32.2% predicted a shortage of skilled and experienced workers and 14.4% predicted to face insufficient capital to recruit staff to fill these shortages. In reality. 52.9% faced a skills shortage and 44.2%faced insufficient capital to recruit.
  • Looking Ahead: Companies expect limited access to financial capital (19.83%), and a lack of practical/non-academic skills (16.53%) to be the biggest challenges in the next three to five years.