The purpose of the build In Canada innovation program is to help Canadian companies move their state-of-the-art goods and services from the lab to the marketplace by giving the company that first major reference sale. The Innovation, Science and Economic Development website states that:
Between 2011 and 2013, small businesses accounted for 27 percent of total research and development expenditures, spending $13.0 billion over the period.... Lacking both a credit history and the collateral needed to secure a loan, over 80 percent of start-ups used personal financing to finance their new businesses.
I know there is a need for checks and balances to ensure that government money is spent wisely. As a small businessman who wants to do business with the government, I would also appreciate anything that can speed up the process.
Across Canada, the risk that is taken by entrepreneurs is shouldered, in my view, largely by individual Canadians and their families. Risk stifles innovation, a key theme about which I will make several points and recommendations.
Government should reward risk-takers within its ranks. BCIP may cover the financial risk by paying for the innovation. The test department also takes risks by providing the human and physical resources during the test. These people also have full-time jobs, and agreeing to take part in these tests means taking on extra workloads. For a program like the build in Canada innovation program to be really successful, there needs to be a way to recognize and reward the efforts of the test departments and their people.
Our first BCIP award was for Text-to-Software, our software development platform. To achieve this award, we first had to try and fail our first build in Canada attempt. This was an expensive lesson to learn, and we took out of it the need to hire outside expertise to write our first proposal. I would estimate our investment to make the attempt and win cost approximately $50,000. For a small business, this is no small sum, and we took considerable risk at the outset with only a limited expectation of winning.
While recent process changes have brought improvements, it can still take more than a year from the start of the application process to the awarding of the contract. Small businesses can easily launch and go out of business if they fail to secure sales targets after investing in those opportunities.
This is an example of risk and how it plays into whether a firm can even make it through a BCIP procurement.
Happily, we did win on our second BCIP attempt.
I would recommend that when an entrepreneur is arriving with a new product, service, or solution, it should be a government-wide policy that everyone in government, from director to manager to employee, be required to welcome the innovator in every way they can. Further, after a successful BCIP test, an automatic transition to an internal government incubator, specifically for these successful products, would be an effective way to accelerate innovation. Currently BCIP winners still need to hunt for their next client. This problem could be solved entirely if BCIP companies were automatically connected with demand under an automatic procurement program.
Many bright stars in government have helped us along the way.
One of them was Bruce Covington, a key advocate and our first client for our innovation at Public Services and Procurement Canada . He and his group were very supportive and proactive throughout our first BCIP experience.
I therefore recommend that BCIP winners should be able to rate and recommend their test departments on an official list. If the government were then to have a policy of recognizing and rewarding the top innovative test departments, then it's likely we would see the pace of innovation inside the government accelerate.
Text-to-Software automatically creates customized software from text. In our first build in Canada innovation program test with Mr. Covington and his team at PSPC, we were able to create a customized data classification system for 22.5% of the internal PSPC budget. We showed that going codeless works, completing the project on schedule despite a three-month delay.
It's fair to say that all of us felt that the result of this BCIP test could have gone further. We learned from that experience and have been working with our partner, Meyers Norris Penny, to leverage all the BCIP results we have achieved into new cloud-based services designed for government. These are now available to government departments on the software licensing supply arrangement. BCIP can be thanked for enabling efficiency-minded C-level managers with our new codeless solution.
Also, it was Mr. Bruce Covington at Public Services and Procurement Canada who first recommended that we work with a larger partner. This is what began the relationship we have with MNP today, our largest private sector partner and Canada's largest Canadian-owned accounting, tax, and business consulting firm. With MNP as the lead applicant representing SageTea, last month we were even able to achieve an SLSA, a software licensing supply arrangement, win for all of our BCIP program-tested products. Often a smaller company needs to have a bigger one help it along when doing business with the government. I therefore recommend that the government do more of this by getting private firms, big and small, to work together in complementary ways.
We utilized the BCIP program follow-on sales program to test Text-to-Software at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. There, using Text-to-Software, we built two customized software applications in only five weeks. These are now available to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well as across government through the SLSA.
Today we are just beginning the test of our second BCIP innovation, SageTea Link, with Employment and Social Development Canada as the test department. SageTea Link is an ETL—extract, transform and load—tool. What that means for most of us in the room is that with SageTea Link you can automatically migrate and link valuable data from unsupported expensive-to-maintain systems to new supported ones. This is a huge problem in government.
A key component of our current BCIP innovation is artificial intelligence. SageTea has partnered with Lemay Solutions, an Ottawa-based Al company that is a subcontractor with MNP on the current BCIP test. As a result, we are also now including a new artificial intelligence module with SageTea Link. This new product, SageTea Link Deep Learning, enables our customers with easy-to-use artificial intelligence. MNP is doing a security audit of our software to ensure it meets the government's IT security requirements.
Our experience with the BCIP program and the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises has been exceptional. The build in Canada innovation program is a terrific program. It has made an incalculable difference to SageTea Software's mission to be a global standard for software development.
Thank you. Merci.