Life Sciences sector in Canada

World of Science, Vancouver

Canada maintains 583 core biotechnology development companies and over 200 public sector institutions in the biotechnology field. It is considered the third largest biotechnology market in the world after the US and the UK.

Market overview

Canada has a predominantly publicly financed, privately delivered healthcare system, (Medicare) managed by ten provincial and three territorial health departments. The Federal Government is the Regulator and provider of (tax) transfer payments to the Provinces.

In 2012, Canadian Government estimated C$207.4 billion would be spent on the publicly funded healthcare system (Medicare) hospitals account for the largest proportion, followed by drugs and physician services. Private insurance and out-of-pocket expenses totalled about $56.6 billion in 2010.

The medical device industry in Canada generates approximately C$6.6 billion in sales with 52% originating in Ontario, 37% in Quebec and 8% in British Columbia. Imports are largely from the USA.

Canada’s therapeutic development pipeline includes:

  • Research & Pre-Clinical: 488

  • Phase I: 87

  • Phase II: 185

  • Phase III: 30

  • Products in the market: 42

Ontario 28%, British Columbia 27%, and Quebec 21%, followed by the rest of the regions. Major UK investors in Canada include AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

Key opportunities


Several fund trends continue to affect healthcare:

  • A major shift towards ambulatory, community-based practice

  • Increased focus on primary and secondary prevention

  • Providing services/devices for current ‘boomers’ and projected increase in aged Canadian population.

  • Proliferation of co-morbidities and chronic diseases that are stressing the health care system(s)

  • Information technology to better link patients with providers and to bring evidence of treatment effectiveness to both

  • Innovation adoption to enable faster delivery of healthcare more effectively and efficiently

Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals

  • R&D and Technology Transfer: Partnerships between UK and Canadian firms and academic institutions can be used to leverage these opportunities

  • Combined federal and provincial tax credits (such as the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SRED) tax incentive) can be worth up to 30% of qualifying R&D expenditures for foreign investors

  • Commercialisation: Opportunities for UK professional services companies that offers consultancy in commercialisation of R&D, proprietary consultancy, technology licensing, technology transfer, joint ventures and project financing to bridge the gap between the critical areas of academia, research and commerce

  • Production and trials: International production and marketing partners, as well as clinical research organisations that are able to design and undertake clinical trials in the UK for Canadian pharmaceutical firms

Latest export opportunities in the Life Sciences sector

Latest export opportunities in Canada

Getting into the market

Within the Life Sciences sector routes into the Canadian market may vary depending on the product or service being provided. Medical devices are regulated by Health Canada and are classified according to risk (Class I-IV). The usual route into the market is via medical distribution representative supplying into the healthcare sector or hospital buying groups.

Biotechnology and pharmaceutical products and services usually enter the market through in-market representation, R&D partnerships, in-market manufacturing, or provision of services direct to the end users.

Given the sensitive nature of this sector, establishing relationships in the market is important and can be developed through various routes including attending sector events in the UK, in-market or in third markets.

More about doing business in Canada


Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.

  • Gilda Carbone, Trade Officer (Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals), British Consulate-General Toronto; Tel: +1 416 593 1290 ext 2229; Email: [email protected]

  • Valerie Strand, Trade Officer (Healthcare) British Consulate-General Toronto; Tel: +1 416 593 1290 ext 2224; Email: [email protected]

UKTI Events

UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.

Latest events in the Life Sciences sector

Major Events

itHealthcare Canada (Toronto)

3-4 October 2013

BioContact (Montreal)

2-3 October 2013

BioPartnering North America (Vancouver)

February 2014

BioFinance (Toronto)

May 2014

BIO International Convention (San Diego)

23-26 June 2014

Location differs throughout North America each year. A significant Canadian presence participates in this key industry event.

AdvaMed (Washington DC)

23-24 September 2013

Leading North American MedTech Conference

Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

Sectors: Life Sciences and Science
Countries: Canada
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