Silicon Valley North #29                                       March, 2001


The Way I See It… by Michael C. Volker 


The ASI Exchange: a paragon in building a technology community


Canada boasts a number of technology “clusters”, i.e. regional concentrations of technology ventures in which the local infrastructure facilitates and encourages the growth and development of such companies.


For example, technology clusters are thriving in Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo, Calgary and Vancouver because of the intellectual capital resource, i.e. the talented individuals, universities and research organizations in those areas. These, and the growing number of techno-centric advisors, angels, venture capitalists and professional service providers, provide the ingredients to “make technology happen” as Denny Doyle would say. Bringing these various participants together to share knowledge and to collaborate with each other is instrumental in building an environment for innovation.


I recall how my involvement with CATA (Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance), back in its early days, greatly aided the development of my own company. Participating in the many events, meetings, and conferences hosted by CATA, enabled me to increase my exposure to other firms and organizations and form many valuable relationships. The value of networking cannot be overstated.


The B.C. Advanced Systems Institute (ASI) has elevated the art of networking to a new level. ASI was formed as an independent non-profit organization in the late 1980’s to build bridges among various players B.C.’s then-fledgling information technology industry. It connected the stakeholders - University researchers and academics, high-tech entrepreneurs, investors, advisors and government policy makers through a number of successful initiatives.


One such initiative is “The ASI Exchange”, a model for the fostering of high technology networking. The ASI Exchange started in 1992 as a “spring presentations day” – an occasion for grad students at the B.C. Universities to show and tell their interests to local technology companies. The idea was to not only provide companies with access to new recruits, but also to showcase university research with a view to developing collaborative university-industry projects.


This year, as The ASI Exchange celebrates its tenth anniversary, it expects to host more than 3,000 participants, a remarkable increase from the 60 who attended in the first year. Over 2,300 participants attended last year - not only hundreds of high-tech industry professionals, but also hundreds of post secondary education institution researchers and corporations.


The ASI Exchange is now regarded as B.C.’s premier technology gathering. It is the only event that brings together all of BC's high-tech community to swap ideas and explore research, financial and other collaborations. 


The place buzzes with excitement. Industry leaders are engaged in a distinguished speaker series. The many corporate booths, demonstrations, poster-sessions, workshops and seminars provide a stimulating ambience.  For example, Burnaby-based Electronic Arts Canada presents its EA Arcade where attendees can check out the latest gaming industry research - presented by EA's graduate student interns.


Awards and prizes are also offered to graduate students who have an outstanding poster or interactive display and are able to communicate their research most effectively.


B.C.’s Information, Science and Technology Agency and corporate sponsors such as Electronic Arts and Telus underwrite the event. As such, attendance is complimentary and open to the entire community. All attendees receive ASI’s Advanced Technology Directory, an annual publication including profiles of many of BC's advanced technology companies, support organizations and university researchers.


What better way is there for discovering what’s happening in one’s high technology community? Not only are such meetings educational and informative, they’re a great deal of fun. Young entrepreneurs get to mingle with the who’s who of technology success stories. I liken it to a bunch of kids of all ages being let loose in a humungous technology candy shop!


This remarkable all-day event will take place on Tuesday, March 13, 2001 at the Enterprise Hall in Vancouver’s Plaza of Nations. Complete details are available at


The way I see it, The ASI Exchange isn’t just another opportunity to network. It transcends that. It’s all about creating a culture for innovation within the community to build a vibrant technology sector.


Michael Volker is a high technology entrepreneur and director of Simon Fraser U's University/Industry Liaison Office. He oversees Vancouver’s Angel Technology Network and is a director of the BC Advanced Systems Institute and the Vancouver Enterprise Forum. He may be reached at