What if businesses were able to conduct research, innovate, and experiment right in their own backyard? Calgary, already one of the most business-friendly cities in Canada, acts a living lab in many ways to help support the growth of its tech ecosystem. Just imagine the potential opportunity in a city so responsive it could test new ideas, and adjust trials, in real time.

Using our city as a living lab allows us to innovate, adapt, and grow our economy in smart ways. This initiative makes Calgary, already known as a hub for innovation, an even more attractive option for companies looking to grow and expand.

The living lab idea is already active in several areas in our city; Calgary Economic Development and the City of Calgary have partnered to bring Calgary’s Living Lab initiative to life. This allows companies to trial their data and technology products with City-owned assets.

The living lab concept in Calgary

Calgary is using its strengths in education, innovation, and entrepreneurship to create new opportunities for the city and for the companies hoping to grow their businesses here. The Living Lab initiative allows companies to create, explore ideas, experiment, and evaluate in real time.

Calgary Film Centre allowed VizworX, a local leader in augmented reality (AR) software, to showcase its work in 3D modelling on-site. The ability to show clients full-scale 3D models with detailed layout and design is enormously valuable, and the space owned operated by the Calgary Film Centre is being put to good use.

The Shepherd Landfill in southeast Calgary is allowing both private companies and post-secondary institutions to use City property as a testing ground for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

One of the first major cities in North America to allow for mass testing of UAVs, Calgary was also home to one of the first fully-autonomous vehicle pilots in the country. The pilot project, known as ELA (Electronic Autonomous) took place in Calgary with an autonomous shuttle being tested between the Calgary Zoo and TELUS Spark

Calgary also runs the Ward of the 21st Century project at the Foothills Hospital, which acts as a test lab for healthcare companies to test medical devices that improve patient care while in the hospital.

“The idea for the Living Lab has been around for a long time but what we brought was process,” Andrew Sedor, Business Development Coordinator in Transportation Strategy for the City of Calgary, explained during a recent demonstration of drone technology.

The Living Lab initiative is managed via a streamlined application process that Calgary Economic Development created and is currently used by the City to make locations available for film and TV production. As Sedor noted, the logistical and legal liability issues in these industries are similar.

“What we’re doing now is creating an asset catalogue of all the city’s facilities,” he said. “We want to do the same thing as the film industry does in for data and technology. We are looking to connect with industry and academia and provide them with a variety of testing facilities that can help support and grow their research and/or business.’”

Calgary as an innovation ecosystem

Calgary has both the resources and talent to bolster innovation and development in key areas:  healthcare, energy, agribusiness, as well as transportation and logistics. These areas satisfy basic human needs, making them a perfect foundation to ensure we are making advances in necessary and developing areas.

We are easily a place of choice for these initiatives, and they are the future of the new economy. This is a path where Calgary has the right to win, making it worth our long-term investment of time and planning. 

The Living Lab initiative is part of our city’s plan for continued growth, to ensure we have the talent, technology, and innovation to secure growth over the long term.

Learn more about Calgary as a living lab, and how it might be the perfect fit for your company or research.

Help us understand how your businesses and schools would like to participate in Living Labs by completing this short survey. Survey closes on November 2, 2018.

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