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What are the top cities for life sciences companies in Canada?

With a global market worth billions of dollars each year, Canadian cities are emerging as hub locations for life sciences companies.

With more start-ups and a collaborative environment emerging, the top cities for life sciences in Canada continue to perform well and companies in this sector are becoming ever more competitive in the global market.

Toronto (population 2.8 million)

Canada represents about 2% of the global market in the sector, which is about $15bn, with an average of 11% growth in the ten years to 2022. 

As the largest city in Canada and the financial centre of the nation, it is not surprising that Toronto is a leading location for life sciences.  The regional life sciences ecosystem in Ontario attracts many of the leading life sciences companies in Canada.  

Toronto’s so-called ‘Discovery District’ the downtown research park and health innovation hub is home to multiple life sciences facilities inclduing hospitals, research institutes, business incubators, and venture capital organisations, as well as the University of Toronto.  

Overall investments made here total over $1bn annually, incorporating both public and private life sciences research. 

With multiple and ongoing collaboration between education institutions, research facilities, and life sciences businesses, the growth of new diagnostics and therapies continues apace.  

Directly employing around 30,000 professionals and contributing more than $2bn to the local economy, life sciences represent a significant percentage of Toronto’s fiscal foundation.  

Areas driving this include genomics, proteomics, stem cell research, photonics, drug research and development, and neurosciences.  

With the opening of the $345m Medical and Related Sciences Discovery District (MaRS) in downtown Toronto, its position as one of the top life sciences cities in Canada is assured.  

Montreal (population 1.76 million) 

Montreal has emerged as one of the leading life sciences regions along the east coast of Canada.  

With the presence of educational institutions renowned for scientific excellence, including McGill University and Université de Montréal, companies have consistent access to a highly-talented life sciences workforce.  

Boosted by local and federal government incentives for the sector, life sciences companies in Canada are attracted to Montreal in greater numbers.  

In addition, the existence of established life sciences companies that offer potential strategic partnerships and collaboration opportunities makes it a destination city for life sciences initiatives.  

Montreal’s life sciences and health technology industries are growing thanks to its reputation as a world leader in neurology, oncology, cardio-vascular disease, virology, epidemiology and immunology, and its six dedicated applied sciences research laboratories owned by pharmaceutical companies in the city. 

There are multiple university-level institutions and three engineering schools ensuring that Montreal offers a continuous stream of life sciences graduates, enabling a rich talent pool of employees for local companies.  

With 46,000 life sciences professionals already working within the province as of 2022, and 40,000 students currently enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and life sciences programmes, Montreal looks set to remain one of the top Canadian cities for life sciences. 

Vancouver (population 640,000) 

Vancouver is the centre of the life sciences sector in the province of British Columbia.  

With the University of British Columbia driving life sciences education and numerous research institutions nurturing innovation, life sciences companies in Canada have plenty to take advantage of in the industry.  

Within Canada, the life sciences sector is of paramount importance to the economy of British Columbia. According to a report in Life Sciences BC, over 20,000 people are employed directly by companies within the sector.  

Generating $5.4bn in annual revenue, the life sciences company growth in Vancouver has seen it rank globally as the 21st life sciences start-up ecosystem, which ranks at the summit among Canadian cities.  

StemCell Technologies, the largest life sciences and biotech company in Canada has its headquarters in Vancouver, with more companies relocating, expanding, or starting up in what is a life science friendly business and research environment.  

Vancouver also boasts a strong biotech sector in the areas of health and genomics research with several major biotech companies located in the area including Johnson & Johnson, Icon and GSK.  

As one of the top cities for life sciences companies in Canada, Vancouver has over 70 biotech companies within the Greater Vancouver Area, directly employing around 2,600 life sciences professionals.  

Ottawa (population 1.1 million) 

As the capital city of Canada, Ottawa is a natural draw for business owners and investors. With a diverse and talented concentration of high-tech professionals and research facilities, the life sciences community in the capital is burgeoning.  

Home to Canada’s federal government, local government tax initiatives and grants are available for life sciences companies and related research funding. With the University of Ottawa Heart Institute ranking in the top 3% of worldwide research institutions based on the quality and impact of their scientific publications, leading life sciences companies continue to make the region their corporate hub. 

With leading researchers and companies in the areas of mobile health, viral vectors/oncolytic viruses’ development, medical isotopes, and point-of-care blood tests devices, Ottawa is one of the favoured cities for life sciences companies in Canada.  

In addition to the established life sciences companies, the University of Ottawa has a highly prestigious life sciences faculty, providing employers with a steady stream of graduates to help grow and strengthen their enterprises.  

Ottawa’s life sciences community provides a strong base for research and development, with C$380m available in funding each year for universities affiliated research institutions.  

Life sciences companies headquartered in Ottawa include Abbot, ThermaFisher Scientific, Dinacare and Nordeon, making it one of the strongest cities for life sciences across Canada.   

Tax incentives and initiatives for life sciences companies looking to locate their business in Ottawa are numerous.

These include the Ontario Innovation Tax Credit initiative, Ontario Research and Development Tax Credit scheme, and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive.  

Each of these encourages the establishment and growth of life sciences companies in Ottawa, with a wide range of local and federal fiscal support.  

Industries that benefit from these tax breaks across the life sciences include bioinformatics, stem cells and regenerative medicine, drug discovery, medical devices, bio-products and convergent technologies. 

Information, data and statistics from Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Statistics Canada, BC Chamber of Commerce, Statista Quebec, Ontario Economic Report,

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