Here’s a few things you probably never knew about Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia in Canada.
It is one of the sunniest places in the country; the population of Greater Victoria is 367,000, and Condé Nast named Victoria as ‘Canada’s Best City to Live in for Women’. The location on the southern tip of Vancouver Island makes it Western Canada’s most southern city, and a popular tourist destination.
Victoria is popular with boaters, with its rugged shorelines and beaches and National Geographic recognised Vancouver Island as one of the best cold-water diving destinations on the planet.
Named after Queen Victoria, the city is famous for its landmark historic buildings. Victoria has also been a destination for numerous high-profile international events, including the 47th ICCA Annual Congress. But it is advanced technology where the city dominates: Victoria’s largest revenue-producing private industry with more than $3bn in annual revenues. The city is home to nearly 900 tech companies which employ over 15,000 direct employees. Add in Canada’s highest household internet usage, three post-secondary institutions, eight federal research labs, and Canada’s Pacific Navy, and it’s evident that Victoria has the elements required for a vibrant technological sector.
Ocean and marine technology are real strong suits and Victoria’s reputation for innovative research has helped attract many specialist conferences related to the sector. The seas have a massive impact on the region’s strategic appeal. Ocean-oriented activities in British Columbia account for 7 to 8 percent of the total percent of the total provincial economy. Ocean sector revenues and government/not-for-profit ocean-oriented expenditures in British Columbia represent $11.6 billion annually.
Not surprisingly, the strategy is to grow and protect this sector. In 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced an annual investment of CAD$1.5m to support the Canadian Integrated Ocean Observing System (CIOOS), with additional funding from the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR). The objective is to make ocean data “findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable”. The theme of sustainability is also apparent, initiatives between regional universities and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, a $1.5 million four-year partnership, involving a team of international researchers is exploring how to turn the ‘greenhouse gas’ carbon dioxide into rock by permanently injecting it beneath the Earth’s ocean floor. The project team includes scientists, engineers and social scientists from the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia, among other international partners.
Recent years also saw a partnership between Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) to implement SeaTubeV2, a web-based annotation interface for ROV operations on expeditions aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The SeaTubeV2 serves as the digital equivalent to the scientist’s logbook; It is used by shipboard and shore-side cruise participants to log real-time observations on a wide variety of topics. Local business schools are expanding efforts to embed sustainability into both undergraduate and post-graduate qualifications and research programmes.
The University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business replaced its 16-month MBA programme in September 2020 with a new MBA in sustainable innovation.
Victoria’s status as a marine technology hub is also enhanced by a variety of specialist organisations. University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) monitors the west and east coasts of Canada and the Arctic to continuously deliver data in real-time for scientific research.
Using cabled observatories, remote control systems and interactive sensors, coupled with big data management, ONC enables evidence-based decision-making on ocean management, disaster mitigation, and environmental protection.
ONC manages the VENUS and NEPTUNE Canada cabled ocean networks as a world-leading ocean observatory, providing global access to continuous sea floor data in real time, via the Internet.
ONC has been working with provincial, national and international partners to develop innovative tsunami modelling, measuring, monitoring and reporting methods that support the creation of more accurate tsunami detection and inundation maps.
With its ubiquitous natural beauty, the country’s most temperate climate and a laid-back, urban feel, Victoria is undeniably among Canada’s most alluring and picturesque destinations for conferences. What isn’t apparent about the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest—but is even more notable—is it is a leading centre of excellence for Ocean Science research and innovation, and a top spot to host conferences in this sector
Aside from conferences hosted by the academic centre, many international events have been hosted at the Victoria Conference Centre (VCC). A combination of 7,153sqm of meeting space, 21 rooms and a 400-seat lecture theatre, the venue can accommodate 2,000 delegates.
VCC – originally inspired by London’s Crystal Palace – works with partners in Saskatoon and St. John’s to provide planners with an efficient tool to book their meetings in rotation from east – central – west.
Victoria has a thriving meetings industry, hosting numerous high profile events and many of them oceans-related, among them the Oceans Week Victoria, World Oceans Day, International Pacific Halibut Commission Annual Meeting, the Annual Northwest Fish Culture Conference, Aquaculture Canada, the Council of Marine Carriers and MARI-TECH 2018. Despite its island location, there are regular flights into the airport and a plethora of transport alternatives, from hydrofoils to helicopters, helping make Victoria easily accessible.
There’s an impressive list of top companies based in Victoria and operating across the region, including global marine, aviation, nuclear and land systems behemoth Babcock. Around the world recreational boats, Coast Guard vessels, and industrial vessels are being protected by products from Barnacle Systems Ltd. While, for under the water, Open Ocean Robotics produces energy-harvesting unmanned boats equipped with sensors and cameras. Vancouver Island also has over 2,800 farms, with nearly 1,000 in the Greater Victoria Region.
There are companies like Cascadia Seaweed, which is growing a number of seaweed species in the waters around British Columbia providing everything from food, bio-packaging, body products, and organic fertiliser. Bill Collins, chairman Cascadia Seaweed, tells us: “We are growing to be the largest provider of ocean-cultivated seaweed in North America. Our success relies on embracing the knowledge and of Indigenous communities along British Columbia’s coastline to grow seaweed and therefore provide a healthy source of food for our growing populations, along with other innovative uses for the 630 species of seaweed in B.C. We are grateful to the City of Victoria for developing the Ocean Futures Innovation Hub as it supports our desire to bring large conferences — such as the biennial International Seaweed Symposium — to Vancouver Island.”
Featured Image by Destination Canada