Into the Scale-up-verse: Exploring the landscape of Canada’s high-performing firms

The first comprehensive examination of the different ways to measure and define high-growth firms and their important contributions to the Canadian economy
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Into the Scale-up-verse: Exploring the landscape of Canada’s high-performing firms
Steve Denney
Research Collaborator
Viet Vu
Manager, Economic Research
Ryan Kelly
Research Collaborator

About This Report

For Canadian firms, high-growth is rare. Our new report, Into the Scale-up-verse, finds that—despite their relatively small population—scale-ups are responsible for the vast majority of productivity growth in Canada. Through a research collaboration between the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship and the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School for Public Policy & Global Affairs in the University of Toronto, this report provides the most comprehensive guide yet to understanding the diverse landscape of high-growth companies and their contributions to Canada’s economic success.

For academic researchers, industry players, and government policymakers, this report acts as a resource that clearly defines the different types of scale-ups, maps their geographic and industrial diversity, and highlights their impact on export values, innovation, employment, and productivity growth in Canada. It will also inform economic policy-making and the conversation on scale-ups as we work to encourage the creation and success of more scale-ups in Canada and harness the immense power these firms hold in securing long-term economic sustainability and prosperity.

Read this report to help you:
  • Understand the immense impact Canadian scale-ups have on productivity growth, employment creation, and innovation adoption.
  • Navigate the first-of-its-kind sub-provincial and industrial mapping of Canada’s scale-up activity.
  • Gain the language and the framework to discuss scale-ups in the context of policymaking and research.
  • Identify areas that deserve particular attention of policymakers to ensure we harness the full potential of scale-ups in Canada.

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Key insights from the report:

  • Scale-ups drive the majority of productivity growth in Canada. With high-growth firms in many industries experiencing productivity growth in excess of 25% in a single year, there is little doubt that scale-ups are an integral part of Canada’s long-term economic sustainability.
  • Scale-ups are leading contributors to increased employment and job quality in Canada. Scale-ups employ ten times the number of people compared to non-scale-ups, and average pay at scale-ups exceeds non-scale-ups across almost all industries and economic regions of Canada.
  • Declining investment in R&D is a risk to scale-ups reaching their full potential. R&D investment has proven to be successful in ensuring a firm’s sustained growth. And although scale-ups are more likely to allocate funds to research and development relative to non-scale-ups, overall trends in R&D investment are stagnating.
  • Scale-ups are more likely to export than non-scale-ups. Successfully exporting is a sure sign that a firm has raised their growth ceiling, expanding their market reach, and bolstered their organizational sophistication. Scale-ups export at a frequency five to ten times higher than non-scale-ups.
  • Scale-ups are too diverse and complex for a “one size fits all” policy approach. Using new and comprehensive insights into the three ways scale-ups are defined and measured, policymaking can now apply a more targeted approach to supporting the success of different types of high-growth firms, their behaviours, and contributions.

Technology Retrospective

Scale-ups are responsible for the majority of productivity growth in Canada and the tech sector is an important part of this picture. This extract from Into the Scale-up-verse focuses on what our research means for the tech sector and how policymakers should look towards unlocking its full potential to advance Canada’s economic prosperity.

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This is a joint project between the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) and the Innovation Policy Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy.

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not reflect those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, or the Government of Canada.

Deep Dive

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Dec 10, 2021

A summary of the Into the Scale-up-verse report, exploring Canadian scale-up activity in Canada
Navigating Canada’s scale-up landscape
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