Michael Denham

Michael Denham

The Business Development Bank of Canada is working on a new investment program that would support Canada’s five innovation superclusters, including the Ocean Supercluster on the East Coast.

In an interview with Entrevestor, CEO Michael Denham said the federal government’s business bank is growing strongly and is committed to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in Canada. And it wants to work closely with the five organizations that are overseeing these innovation hubs.

Denham visited Halifax and Sydney this week as part of a summer tour of the country, and took the time to speak with a few news organizations. His message: BDC is growing and wants to help businesses across the country, especially innovators and female entrepreneurs.

“We’re also very interested in the developments around the supercluster, including the Ocean Supercluster,” said Denham. “We’re in the process of adapting our Canada-wide VC structure to the development of the supercluster program. So watch this space.”

The federal government this year chose five organizations from across Canada to establish “superclusters” of innovation, sharing $950 million in federal funding over five years. These are large-scale initiatives aiming to develop centres of innovation to become global leaders in a specific field. The four Atlantic Provinces’ Ocean Supercluster was one winner, and the organization is now is the process of incorporating.

Read About the Development of the Ocean Supercluster

Denham said the federal business bank has a role in supporting the companies that will be developed by the superclusters. BDC is the only nationwide bank dedicated entirely to supporting businesses and therefore plays a key role in financing enterprises across the country. The bank, which is wholly owned by the federal government, now provides services to 56,000 businesses in Canada, up 14 percent from a year earlier. It has $31 billion in capital, and also is a certified B Corp, the official designation for social ventures.

“We still think we have lots of room to grow because we think 56,000 in terms of a million Canadian enterprises is a relatively small percentage,” said Denham. He added BDC is being responsible in its growth and is disciplined in extending credit.

Through BDC Capital, the bank has been growing its venture capital activities and is now the most active VC investor in Canada. It does not have a full-time investment professional stationed in Atlantic Canada, but Denham said the institution is committed to supporting Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs. Earlier in the decade, the bank struck a partnership with Propel ICT and was an investor in the first fund of the regional VC group, Build Ventures.  

“I’ve been noticing and have been impressed with the growth and the emerging strength of the ecosystem here,” Denham said. “Every year, the situation is progressing here.”

One area Denham was keen to speak about was BDC’s support of female entrepreneurs. It recently announced a $200 million venture capital fund for companies led by women – the largest of its kind in the world. The bank is doubling its commitment to lending to such businesses and is hosting training and networking events for female entrepreneurs, one of which has already been held in St. John’s.


Disclosure: BDC is a client of Entrevestor.