Vancouver’s Thriving Knowledge Economy Creates 21st Century Opportunities

Contributed by Vancouver Economic Commission

Vancouver has always been a blend of the traditional and the modern. Our skyline reflects a glass city of green building innovation, yet stroll down the cobblestone streets in the historic neighbourhood of Gastown, and you’re transported back to the 19th century. This merging of the old and the new is becoming Vancouver’s signature and it is as apparent in its business ecosystem as its architecture.

Canada Place, Vancouver

Canada Place, Vancouver

Vancouver is the home for twenty-first century business. The economy we are building here demonstrates that traditional business sectors and innovative business models need not be mutually exclusive, but can instead be inclusive and complementary. It is, in fact, Vancouver’s knowledge economy (its talent, innovation, and creativity) that now powers our traditional sectors as we begin to tackle the challenges of this new century.

Three particular sectors in Vancouver are flourishing; Technology, Green Business and Digital Entertainment & Interactive (encompassing Film, TV, VFX, Animation and Gaming). The ongoing rapid growth of these sectors can be attributed, in part, to Vancouver’s home-grown success stories.

The proof is in the numbers. The Tech sector employs nearly 80,000 in BC, the majority of whom live and work in the city, and the sector is growing at over 6% per year, more than double the overall Canadian economy. This trend is being driven by local ecosystem tech anchors like Hootsuite, Avigilon, and A Thinking Ape. Green Business is also growing rapidly, with job growth of 19% in just the last 3 years. Finally, the Digital Entertainment & Interactive sector adds $3 billion to Vancouver’s economy annually and has strong local players such as Nerdcorps, Klei and Bardel Entertainment, partnering with Warner Brothers and Dreamworks on major international film productions. These local leaders are just a few examples of why Vancouver has earned its’ place in the global spotlight.

"A Thinking Ape", Gastown, Vancouver

"A Thinking Ape", Gastown, Vancouver

On the heels of these successes, major international players are increasingly choosing Vancouver over other cities around the world. Sony Pictures Imageworks is moving their headquarters to Vancouver from California, taking 70,000 square feet of prime office space in the new Nordstrom building in our downtown core, adding 400 jobs to their roster by 2015. Sony Imageworks’ new neighbour, Microsoft, will also be opening their Centre for Excellence in Vancouver, opening up in 2015 with 400 jobs and taking 143,000 square feet in the same building. Double Negative, a London-based visual effects (VFX) studio that the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) first connected with during a trade mission around the London 2012 Olympic Games, is opening a studio here as well. They will be partnering with Prime Focus World to create the world’s largest independent VFX, stereo conversion and animation company.

Major productions such as the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Revenant, and The Age of Adaline are being filmed here and visual effects prowess in Emmy-nominated TV shows including Game of Thrones and Almost Human are centred here. As video gaming evolves, Vancouver remains a leader with Electronic Arts’ largest-ever campus, which employs 1,300 and boasts credit for EA’s largest sports franchises: FIFA Soccer and NHL. Leading technology companies like DWave, GeoSim, NGRAIN and MTT Innovation also call Vancouver home because we have the beauty and lifestyle they want personally, and the infrastructure, support, and talent they need professionally.

Vancouver has developed an ideal ecosystem to foster these thriving businesses. Vancouver is now a ‘20 minute’ city: our core business district is just 20 minutes from the best airport in North America, 15 minutes from the mountains, five minutes to the beach and zero minutes to outstanding talent. This local and international talent is a product of Vancouver’s world-renowned higher education institutions. Combine our talent pool with the world’s second most competitive tax regime and international companies have all the reason they need to find their new home in Vancouver.

As the links between traditional and modern business grows stronger, the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) will continue to play a key role in facilitating and amplifying the shift towards twenty-first century business in Vancouver.


The VEC works to position Vancouver as a globally recognized city for innovative, creative and sustainable business. We create platforms that enable our local companies to grow, access smart capital and attract the world’s best talent. It may be the city’s beauty that attracts people to the Digital Entertainment & Interactive and Tech industries in Vancouver, but it’s the beauty of the jobs that inspires them to stay. The VEC is driven to generate more success stories to add to Vancouver’s already impressive roster of home-grown heroes.