India and Ontario have a long history of working together : Ontario Minister Reza Moridi

In conversation with Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, Government of Ontario on Inda-Ontarioa relations and Ontario’s expertise in digital technology, entrepreneurship, research and innovation.

What is the current research and innovation environment in the digital space in Ontario?

Ontario has fostered one of the most supportive environments for R&D and is home to one of North America’s most dynamic innovation ecosystems. Ontario is an internationally recognized technology hub, with over 1,000 tech companies generating $30 billion in revenue in the Waterloo-Toronto technology corridor alone. The corridor is the second-largest IT cluster in North America.

Almost half of Canada’s full-time R&D personnel are in Ontario, and more than $14 billion is spent annually in the sector.  Five of the top ten corporate R&D spenders in Canada have set up their headquarters in Ontario, and multinational leaders like Google, IBM, and Microsoft have offices in the province.

Ontario’s interactive digital media industry is a leading hub in North America. It is home to international gaming giants such as Capcom, Electronic Arts, Gameloft, Glu Mobile, Take-Two Interactive, Zynga, and Ubisoft, as well as domestic stars such as Capybara Games, Digital Extremes, Big Blue Bubble, Magmic and XMG Studio.

What are the opportunities for collaboration between India and Ontario? Are there any existing partnerships?

There are many areas in which Ontario and India could and do already partner. In early 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne visited India and signed 65 trade agreements. Highlights of the mission include Premier Wynne signing MOUs with five Indian states that will make it easier for the regions to work together in areas of mutual interest. Delegates accompanying the Premier on the mission also signed agreements that will help Ontario and India share their expertise and knowledge in areas including technology and entrepreneurship.

One of the MOUs includes an agreement between Datawind and Naaptol to develop 4G tablets in India. The company also announced three other MOUs and a new partnership with the Government of Telangana to open a manufacturing base, which is expected to be in production within months.

A tri-party MOU was also signed between Seneca College, the College of Engineering Pune and the City of Markham to promote global partnerships among young entrepreneurs from India and Ontario.

There is also a joint five-year, $6-million fund in place between Ontario and India’s Ministry of Science and Technology to promote bilateral research collaborations focused on information and communications technologies, life sciences, clean technologies and medical devices between the two jurisdictions.

To date, Ontario has launched three calls for proposal and approved $2.6 million from the fund to support nine projects.

Also, Ontario has International Trade and Investment Offices in Mumbai and New Delhi that can help Indian companies do business in Ontario and provide information to Ontario businesses about opportunities in India.

Are there any specific incentives offered by MRIS for entrepreneurs and startups?

Entrepreneurship and innovation are at the heart of the Ontario government’s jobs and economy strategy. We want to help more Ontarians start businesses and help their businesses prosper.

There are many incentives and supports for start-ups in Ontario. MRIS supports world-class research, commercialization and innovation taking place across Ontario through a range of programs and services like the Ontario Research Fund, Innovation Demonstration Fund and Ontario Venture Capital Fund. Ontario also offers on-campus entrepreneurship programs at 42 of its 44 colleges and universities to encourage and support youth entrepreneurship.

Likewise, the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE – www.onebusiness.ca) is a program that supports economic growth across the province. The ONE was created to pool together the full-spectrum of programs, services and resources available to Ontario’s entrepreneurs. In 2014-15, the ONE helped Ontario’s entrepreneurs and firms launch more than 6,000 new start-ups; create over 16,000 jobs and; leverage over $1.7 billion in investments.

Some R&D incentives for start-ups and entrepreneurs looking to do business in Ontario include competitive tax incentive programs that are available to qualified businesses. Programs cover a range of eligible costs.

Ontario’s focus on low development costs and simplified tax programs contribute to a combined federal-provincial corporate income tax rate which is substantially lower than the rate in United States.

What are Ontario’s offerings and long term plans for driving on research and innovation?

In a competitive global economy, it is more important than ever for Ontario to foster the right climate to turn great ideas into thriving companies and new jobs. Ontario is committed to sharpening our competitive edge by fostering discoveries that lead to new technologies, treatments for patients, and advances in science while supporting high quality, knowledge-based jobs.

Through the Ontario Research Fund, the province is investing in a prosperous future of research and innovation across Ontario. The fund includes two components: the first, Research Excellence, through which the Ministry has committed and announced $632.7 million towards 174 projects to date. The other is Research Infrastructure, which the Ministry has committed and announced $952 million towards 2,235 research infrastructure projects to date. The fund has also leveraged $5 billion in funding and helped create more than 103,000 training opportunities.

Support for modern infrastructure and consistent, predictable funding for research operations are the best resources to facilitate future Ontario researchers collaborating with businesses in critical economic sectors.

The province will continue to focus on fostering these relationships to drive long-term growth in our research and innovation sector.

What is the penetration level of digital technology (proportion of population that has access to internet) in Ontario and how has the province ensured easy digital access to its population?

The vast majority of Ontarians have access to the Internet and since 2007, the Ontario government has invested over $260 million to upgrade broadband infrastructure in rural and remote communities.

The benefits of government investment in broadband have been realized. About 97% of Ontario’s households can now access broadband Internet at speeds of at least 5 Mbps, while 99% can access basic broadband speeds of 1.5 Mbps.

The province continues efforts to improve broadband access in Ontario by funding large connectivity projects in small communities, creating tools to assist Ontario’s communities with implementing local broadband projects and participating in nationwide regulatory consultations.

For example, in 2016, Canada and Ontario announced they will each provide up to $90 million towards the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology project, which will expand access to broadband by delivering fibre optic coverage to over 300 communities with a total population of 3.5 million.

How can Ontario contribute to making Digital India a reality in the coming years?

India and Ontario have a long history of working together and this relationship is expanding — generating trade, jobs and economic growth for both regions. Ontario companies are keen to forge partnerships in order to leverage opportunities under the Government of India’s Digital India initiative. In fact, some of Ontario`s programs could serve as best practice examples for India to follow when looking to become a digital environment, for example, Ontario’s Open Data Directive. Through this initiative, Ontario is sharing government data sets online to increase transparency and accountability. The Ontarian government wants to help encourage innovation and solve problems through new ideas and applications.

Ontario and India are already collaborating in the tech space to build start-up expertise in India through Zone Startups India, which is built on the success of the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University and supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. It is collaboration between BSE Institute (a subsidiary of the Bombay Stock Exchange), Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone, Ryerson Futures Inc. and Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada. Zone Startups India currently accommodates over 55 desks and houses 60 startups. The Zone focuses on validating early stage technology by concentrating on early acquisition of customers. In short, Ontario has valuable expertise across multiple sectors that would prove useful to the Indian business market.