Visible minority‑owned SMEs harnessing innovative capacity

Canadian Trade Commissioner Service | Feb 10, 2021

By the numbers

Visible minority‑owned SMEs have reported comparable innovation levels to those of all Canadian SMEs, and excel in product and marketing innovations in particular. In 2017 (the most recent survey year), 31.5% of visible minority‑owned businesses innovated in at least one way, while 31.1% of all businesses did on average.

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Moreover, visible minority‑owned firms outperformed the Canadian SME average in product innovation (20.8% compared to 19.0% of all SMEs), and marketing innovation (16.5% compared to 13.7% of all SMEs).

There is a two‑way connection between innovation and exporting in which innovation can lead firms to export, and exporting can also lead firms to innovate. However, even with comparable levels of innovation, an export gap persists with 10.5% of visible minority‑owned SMEs exporting compared to 11.7% for all SMEs.

This gap is likely the result of different factors, but with similar innovation levels among visible minority enterprises, innovation does not appear to be one of them. In fact, continued innovation performance could contribute to closing the export gap.


Innovation is closely associated with an enterprise’s ability to internationalize. Visible minority entrepreneurs have demonstrated innovative activities on par with and higher than the average Canadian business. This is a positive sign for visible minority owned businesses’ competitiveness abroad.

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