Thursday, October 22, 2015 | By Stefania Seccia, 24 hours |Vancouver, B.C. – B.C.’s life sciences sector should be as high on the priority list as Liquefied Natural Gas because it’s a knowledge-based market that’s already contributing to the province’s economy, according to an expert.

The sector contributes $14.4 billion to B.C.’s GDP and employs around 180,000 — and it’s outpacing other provinces across Canada, according to a report released this week by Price Waterhouse Coopers commissioned by LifeSciences BC.

Paul Drohan, CEO and president of the not-for-profit, said the industry needs more government support to innovate.

The report finds the industry has a cross-industry impact on health care, tech, and manufacturing. Between 2010 and 2014, B.C.’s sector grew 3.4% in the number of companies, direct employment, and average annual wage (5%).

“In this province, we have a very entrepreneurial-rich environment,” he said. “It’s one of the richest in North America, in the life sciences space, it allows young companies to be started.”

While B.C. has more life sciences companies, Quebec’s sector contributes 24% of overall Canadian life science GDP compared to B.C.’s 12%.

Drohan notes the disparity is most likely due to many companies being smaller in size, facing barriers such as a lack of capital.

“It’s a capital intensive industry,” he said. “We need capital. We need the government to be more engaged here. Ontario has significant stimuli for young companies; Quebec is very strong in that area.

“We don’t have that here in the province. We need access to capital in meaningful ways.”

Besides an access to capital, the other hurdle for growth is the access to talent. The report finds the province is experiencing a “talent drain” with local universities attracting students who inevitably leave after graduation.

Drohan said government organizations must synchronize policies and regulatory processes — as there are small pockets of assistance, but no one is coordinating or overseeing the effort.