The Fourth Industrial Revolution has made value chains increasingly complex, and geopolitical trends combined with the new economic reality has shaped a winning environment for forward-looking and trade-ready nations. While Canada and ASEAN enjoy a growing relationship – with ongoing exploratory FTA discussions adding momentum to the partnership – now is the time for the regions to leverage one another’s complementary strengths to unlock deeper benefits on both sides of the Pacific.

The Canada-ASEAN Business Council (CABC) believes that by aligning their innovation agendas, Canada and ASEAN can partner for growth in today’s global knowledge economy.

The question is, where and how can Canada and ASEAN collaborate to seize this opportunity?

Canada’s Innovation Landscape

Canada is a global leader in the research and development of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and clean technology.

Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are ranked as the 9th, 14th and 18th world-leading incubators of technology research and commercial applications respectively, with increasingly significant talent and innovation also developing in Western Canadian cities.

Innovation as a Policy Priority

At the same time, Canada has made the continued development of innovative strengths and international competitiveness a priority.

The Innovation Superclusters Initiative is investing up to C$950 million in following five sectors:

Source: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Together, the superclusters are expected to create 50,000 jobs and grow Canada’s economy by $50 billion.

On the other hand, efforts to promote innovation, especially in nurturing and attracting talent, have already seen positive results:

CanCode has reached 1 million students, while PromoScience encourages 1 million youth a year to pursue interests and careers in STEM. The Global Skills Strategy, Global Talent Stream approved 3,625 applications for high-skilled immigrants, and created 40,833 jobs and 9,732 paid co-op positions.

Innovation Landscape in ASEAN

Home to over 642 million and with a combined economy of $2.8 trillion, ASEAN is now the world’s fifth largest economy and on track to become the fourth largest by 2030, after the U.S., China and the European Union.

Source: ASEAN Secretariat

The ASEAN Plan of Action on Science, Technology and Innovation (APASTI) 2016-2025 provides a strategic vision for the regional bloc. Like Canada, partnerships between the public and private sector are prioritized to create an effective ecosystem for capability development, technology transfer and commercialization.

Fintech is one example of a golden opportunity for Canada in ASEAN, where only 27% of adults have formal bank accounts and only 33% of businesses have access to proper financing. With SMEs as the lifeblood of the region’s economy, Canada’s world-class financial services sector can provide the technology and regulatory experience needed for millions to access finance and capital.

CABC’s Innovation Agenda

At the Canada-ASEAN Business Council (CABC), our Innovation Agenda is to facilitate the exchange of information and advocate for partnerships that advance the trade relationship.

CABC’s membership consists of some of Canada’s most well-known innovators active in ASEAN markets, including Element AI and OpenText, who help shape the face of Brand Canada in the region.

Canada-ASEAN Innovation Roadshow in April 2019, Canada

CABC has a track record of hosting successful events to promote innovation partnerships between the two regions:

  • At the 4th CABC Business Forum in March 2018, CABC hosted highly well-received sessions on Innovation and Building a Smarter Nation.
  • In April this year, our Canada-ASEAN Innovation Roadshow gathered nearly 200 participants from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver to explore opportunities for Canadian innovative SMEs into Southeast Asia.

Innovate Canada-ASEAN (

On September 9 in Bangkok, with the support of CanCham Thailand, CABC will accelerate this dialogue at Innovate Canada-ASEAN.

The full-day conference will convene over 150 senior decision-makers within the Canada-ASEAN economic corridor to create synergies, showcase Canadian innovation, connect technology providers and seekers, and explore how innovation will address key industries’ needs. Topics include Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence, City Partnership, Clean Technology, Healthcare, and more.

Given the importance of moving from start-up to scale-up for the Canadian economy, Canadian innovators must consider international opportunities to gain market share in high-growth markets.

In ASEAN, Canadian companies are considered some of the most trustworthy partners and so, for Canadian entrepreneurs looking to raise capital and SMEs eying internationals expansion, ASEAN presents an opportunity too exciting to ignore.

Similarly, as illustrated in the 2018 report The Canada Advantage, Southeast Asian companies are using Canada as a brand innovation hub to jump-start their global businesses by leveraging Canada’s deep talent base and conducive business conditions to gain a global competitive advantage.

We look forward to welcoming you to the discussion on September 9 in Bangkok, Thailand!