Skills Shortages and Access to Capital Top the List of Limits to Growth in the Canadian Bio-economy

Sequencing the Data report cover

Landmark National Labour Market Information (LMI) Study identifies biotech industry workforce trends.

Skills shortages and access to capital remain barriers to product development and business goals in Canada’s biotech industry, according to a major new Labour Market Information (LMI) report published by BioTalent Canada, along with Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) Thursday, September 19th.

The report, titled “Sequencing the data, People – Driving Canada’s Bio-economy”, identifies key human resources (HR) challenges and trends for Canada’s biotech industry across all subsectors including life sciences and pharmaceuticals. With its partners, BioTalent Canada surveyed over 240 biotech companies to identify HR needs.

Life Sciences Ontario (LSO), the Life Sciences Association of Manitoba (LSAM), PEI BioAlliance and Scotia Bank Start Right are also supporting partners of this statistically significant report which shows that companies are continuing to pursue paths to commercialization. The report also indicates that having access to talent with the right skills is a critical factor in achieving success.

2013 Key labour market findings:

  • Capital: The single greatest challenge to product and service development is limited access to capital, which has increased from 65.9% to 73.8% between 2008 and 2013.
  • Skills Shortages: Skills shortages still remain an issue; 33.2% of companies report skills shortages among staff, which is in line with the 34.4% reported in 2008. Of those reporting skills shortages, 40% indicate it had a negative impact on their company.
  • 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.

Opportunities for success

“These challenges are opportunities for industry, government, and academia to develop programs that will have a positive effect on the industry’s success ,” said Rob Henderson, President of BioTalent Canada. “The industry and partner support for this study and report shows how important talent is to the industry’s success. We plan to work with our national and provincial partners to address these HR issues in the days ahead so the industry can focus on its real work – innovation, revenue and employment.”

Said Russell Williams, President of Rx&D, “We are pleased to be working with BioTalent Canada to identify key HR issues so we can help create the right environment to foster innovation.”

New medicines and vaccines play an important role in improving health outcomes for Canadians and contributing to health-care sustainability. “Creating an environment in which companies have access to skilled talent and capital to innovate will allow them to continue discovering new medicines and vaccines improving the lives of patients and their families, and investing in Canada and our communities,” stated Mr. Williams.

Access to talent

Jason Field is Executive Director at Life Sciences Ontario, the largest life sciences cluster in Canada. He underlined that, “it is vital for Ontario employers to have access to the talent and capital they need for their companies to succeed as part of Canada’s growing bio-economy.”To remain globally competitive, he said that Ontario companies need the support and programs to help them along the path to commercialization.

“Working with partners like BioTalent Canada to create this report means we can leverage an evidence-based approach to developing effective programs, that can work at both the national and local levels, for the sustainability of the Canada’s life sciences industry,” Mr Field stated.

Tracey Maconachie, President Life Sciences Association of Manitoba, pointed out that BioTalent Canada’s LMI report confirms the findings of LSAM’s first State of the Industry report. “Manitoba’s life sciences industry is poised for growth yet access to capital is a barrier for success,” she said.

Developing strategies

“As a significant contributor to the local economy it is crucial companies overcome this barrier to have a sustained and supported industry. Having this new national trending labour market data combined with our first State of the Industry report will help us develop strategies, create new resources and leverage existing programs needed for Manitoba companies to succeed,” Ms. Maconachie said.

“Access to a skilled work force is key to the growth of PEI’s bioscience sector,” said Rory Francis, Executive Director, PEI BioAlliance. “Understanding employers’ HR issues helps us develop our regional, national and international strategic approach for the industry. We are pleased BioTalent Canada’s report “Sequencing the Data” identifies these issues so we can work with our partners to address them effectively.”

To understand the importance of meeting the current and evolving needs of the industry, this new LMI report shows how the industry continues to redefine itself and examines the human resources trends in Canada’s bio-economy, along with how they impact companies from all subsectors, sizes, and stages of growth, from all regions across Canada.

To view or download a copy of the full report, visit