Prince Edward Island’s bioscience industry says that the rapid growth of the sector has fully utilized available laboratory and incubation facilities, and new infrastructure is required to support new business attraction and local company expansion.
Dr. Russ Kerr, Chair of the BioAlliance, said: “it’s good news that the addition of businesses and jobs has occupied available wet lab and business accelerator space in the province”.
The BioAccelerator concept has been developed over the past couple of years in anticipation of sector growth. The 77,000 sq. ft. facility, to be located at the Charlottetown-based BioCommons Research Park is planned to be a service, incubation, and scale up hub that would support the further growth of bioscience-based businesses.
“We now have 46 companies and seven research institutions in the province’s bioscience sector, employing over 1400 people in high paying, full time jobs,” said Kerr. “There are another dozen companies in the development pipeline, and we need the appropriate facilities if we are to compete successfully for the jobs, investment, and brainpower that these opportunities represent.”
Kerr noted that 15 new companies have been added to the bioscience cluster since 2010, and export sales exceeded $200 million in 2015.
Ron Keefe, Chair of the BioAccelerator Steering Committee, said that the team behind the project, which has included industry, academic, federal and provincial government representatives, has taken a broad look at infrastructure across the province and across the region, ensuring that the new facility will complement and create new opportunities for existing facilities at UPEI, AVC, Holland College, the National Research Council, Agriculture Canada Research, BioFoodTech, and industrial parks in communities across the province.
“We’re working with local entrepreneurs and new businesses developing products from functional food ingredients to pharmaceuticals, animal and fish health products, and diagnostics. These products are highly regulated to assure safety and quality, and our facilities have to meet rigorous national and international standards,” explained Keefe.
Kerr pointed out that many of the businesses are early stage, preferring to lease space during their development phase, and building their own facilities as they move to manufacturing and sales.
“With our recent successes in two important national competitions, we have established the Emergence Bioscience Business Incubator and Natural Products Canada here in PEI. These entities are multiplying Canada’s business development and business attraction opportunities and building our reputation as an innovation leader that has the experience and infrastructure to help companies take new products through R&D and then scale to international marketing and sales,” he stated.
“The BioAccelerator will be part of Canada’s national innovation ecosystem supporting new product development and commercialization in the bioscience sector.”
The BioAlliance pointed out that investments by governments in the PEI bioscience sector to date have seen a very good return on investment. “Besides the obvious benefits for our economy, these are the kind of jobs that retain and repatriate our youth, create a highly educated and trained workforce, and enhance industry-research relationships that benefit students and researchers at UPEI and Holland College,” said Keefe.
The BioAlliance called on provincial, federal, and municipal leaders to make the BioAccelerator project a priority for PEI and for Canada as proposals are considered for Phase 2 of the federal infrastructure program.