Bright Leaders of Calgary: Megan Lee, University of Calgary

February 6, 2024
Leadership Innovation Team Calgary Technology
Megan Lee 1920

Future-focused visionaries and institutions are leveraging the power and possibilities of quantum science to create and shape solutions to global challenges — right in the heart of Calgary. 

In a strategic collaboration involving the University of Calgary (UCalgary), the Government of Alberta and Mphasis, Quantum City, an industry hub based at UCalgary, was formed.  Aligned with the priority to accelerate real-world application of research and development in Calgary’s economic strategy, Quantum City is building an ecosystem for quantum science research and technology application in Calgary. 

As managing director of Quantum City, Dr. Megan Lee collaborates with the university team and industry partners to champion the new quantum economy in Calgary.  

We caught up with Megan to learn about the opportunities Calgary’s emerging quantum ecosystem presents for the city’s skilled workforce and innovation scene: 

What is quantum science? 

Quantum science is a branch of physics that studies how electrons and photons — nature’s smallest entities — behave.  

By applying the principles of quantum mechanics to examine life’s fundamental building blocks, researchers can predict the behaviours of these particles. Quantum computing entered the scene when scientists recognized the limitations of classical computers in accurately modelling quantum behaviour. In fact, quantum technology has long been in existence and is currently used in systems like MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines and transistors. 

Ultimately, quantum science empowers us to solve complex problems at speeds immeasurably faster than what’s achievable with traditional computers or technology.  

What is Quantum City and how will it impact Calgary?  

Quantum City’s vision is to be the epicentre where quantum technology becomes quantum solutions. To make this happen, we’re building a quantum ecosystem in Calgary and fostering connections among leading quantum researchers, developers and entrepreneurs, linking them with industry adopters in our corporate community and throughout Alberta.  

The concept of Quantum City emerged after UCalgary leaders and researchers identified gaps in the adoption of emerging quantum technologies. To bridge this gap, Quantum City is actively constructing accessible quantum infrastructure, creating a pipeline for quantum talent and engaging Calgary’s business community to be early adopters of quantum solutions. 

Why should Calgarians be excited about the city becoming a destination for quantum science and technology? 

I see three main reasons why the development of quantum is important for Calgary’s economy:  

  1. Quantum is an emerging sector in Calgary.  Calgary has a critical mass of skilled STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) talent and corporate decision-makers.  The timing is right to develop quantum science and technology as  a key sector, with the capacity to engage with, support and innovate industries critical to Alberta’s economy.
  2. Quantum drives innovation across industries. Just like artificial intelligence, quantum is a platform technology that is applicable across sectors. The application of quantum computing has the potential to future-proof Calgary’s growth by efficiently developing new solutions to challenges across a variety of industries.
  3. The quantum ecosystem will attract more entrepreneurs and startups to Calgary. Calgary’s innovation ecosystem is already attracting students, researchers, entrepreneurs and companies. With Quantum City’s unique value proposition of focusing on the application of quantum solutions, we expect to welcome more top talent and new companies to the city.
How is UCalgary building the talent pipeline for quantum and quantum-related technologies?

Many post-secondary institutions around the world offer research-oriented quantum programs. In January 2024, the University of Calgary launched a unique one-year Master of Quantum Computing program (MQuaC) that focuses on the applicability of quantum computing in professional settings.  

The first of its kind in Canada, this program was designed with input from industry partners to address the barriers they face in applying quantum solutions. The program includes a work-integrated learning component with a four-month paid internship. It’s accessible for STEM bachelor-program graduates, and we aim to equip software engineers, data scientists and developers to thrive in quantum roles.  

We’ve also created upskilling and reskilling opportunities, including the Graduate Certificate and Diploma in Quantum Computing, that allow us to scale the quantum workforce. 

What is the purpose of the soon-to-open qHub, and what type of quantum solutions will be developed there? 

The qHub will be an innovative collision space where quantum technologies will not only be explored and researched, but also applied to a variety of industry sectors. Once completed in 2025, it will bring together startups, students, researchers, faculty, companies and visionaries. This collaborative and entrepreneurial environment will support connections and experimentation with quantum technologies, strengthening efforts to discover optimal quantum solutions. Quantum City has designed qHub to be a one-stop-shop resource for startups, quantum solution companies and Calgary’s business community. 

How does Calgary’s momentum in quantum innovation set us apart as a destination for tech startups? 

With our focus on providing startups with the resources they need to apply and commercialize quantum solutions; Quantum City is already attracting startups from around the world to Calgary.  

We understand that many startups are concerned about revenue-generation and signing their first contract, and Quantum City addresses this common pain point. Our team facilitates connections and mentorship to help quantum startups bring their products to the market, find their first customer, and prepare for the risks and benefits of quantum applications. 

What is your personal vision for Calgary’s quantum ecosystem in the next five to 10 years? 

I believe Calgary will emerge as a world-class, welcoming ecosystem for quantum companies and talent.  

With our unique programming and resources, Calgary will become known as the place where quantum technology companies can start something, crack the market and find their first customer. The word will get out and we’ll be attracting promising quantum players from around the world as we become known as a global quantum solutions destination. 

What gives you optimism for Calgary’s future? 

Calgary is a young and exciting city with a highly skilled workforce and a problem-solving mindset. This triad positions our community to innovate and adopt modern technologies — including quantum — to sustainably solve real-world challenges. 


 About Team Calgary: The Team Calgary corporate partnership program engages our community’s visionary thought leaders to influence Calgary’s economic growth and create long-term prosperity and opportunities for all Calgarians.  

Together, we advance the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, as the path to make Calgary the place where bright minds and big ideas come together with an unmatched spirit to help solve global challenges. 

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