Calgary wants bright minds and big ideas

June 2, 2022
Life in Calgary Innovation New Economy
Central Library credit Michael Grimm 800

Photo credit: Michael Grimm
This article first appeared online on May 31 in London Tech Week news.

Innovators crave a place – an innovation ecosystem – where bright minds and big ideas come together to help solve global challenges.  

Calgary is home to this place, and the city’s vision aims to create long-term prosperity and opportunities for all by focusing on innovation as a key driver in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy

With corporate and venture capital investment, applied research and development (R&D), real world application of R&D from Post-Secondary Institutions (PSIs), business accelerators and highly skilled talent, Calgary is experiencing a rapid evolution of its tech and innovation ecosystem. 

Calgary is on pace to set a record for venture capital (VC) investment for the third year in a row, with $433 million accounted for in the first quarter of 2022, compared with the $500 million annual total in 2021. While impressive, access to VC is one factor of many that illustrates Calgary’s momentum towards a future-proof economy. 

“Calgary has the building blocks for capacity to accelerate the growth of the ecosystem,” said a recent whitepaper, The State of Calgary’s Innovation Ecosystem by Calgary Economic Development. 

“The city is building corporate and post-secondary partnerships to match research and commercialization with real world problems.” 

The city’s seven post-secondary institutions support research commercialization and prototyping, with the University of Calgary emerging as the leading startup creator among Canadian research universities.  

Already, 92 UCalgary-based startups have emerged looking to scale their solution to a global challenge including billion-dollar unicorn-valued precision medicine tech firm, Parvus Theraputics.

Youth are exposed to an entrepreneurial culture in post-secondary education streams, through centres like the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, the Life Sciences Innovation Hub and the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

The innovation ecosystem extends to non-profits like the Platform Calgary Innovation Centre and Innovate Calgary which are positioned to build capacity and facilitate knowledge transfer for local startups. 

“Calgary has seen multiple partnerships in the innovation ecosystem in the past year to accelerate innovation, develop talent and help firms scale up,” said Calgary Economic Development.  

As a global centre of excellence in energy, energy transition and digital transformation are creating opportunities in Calgary’s tech and innovation ecosystem.  

The Alberta Energy Transition Study released in 2021 said a net-zero pathway could produce $61 billion to GDP and create 170,000 jobs in the province by 2050. Calgary companies are also forecasted to spend $7.5 billion in digital transformation between 2021 and 2024. 

Calgary is home to more than 100 corporate head offices, over 1,700 privately held technology companies and more engineers per capita than any other city in Canada.  

To bolster the workforce, training programs such as EDGEUP, Lighthouse Labs and Momentum allow the STEM-oriented population to elevate their skillsets and pivot to in-demand jobs in tech. 

Rapid growth in the cleantech, agtech, fintech, logistics and life sciences sectors has included success stories and unicorns like Neo Financial, Benevity, Parvus Theraputics, Shareworks and Enervus.  

A growing number of business accelerators and incubators are helping support and scale the next wave of entrepreneurs including Plug and Play Alberta, Thrive Canada, Creative Destruction Lab – Rockies and The51. 

The City actively works with organizations well-positioned to boost and diversify the city’s economy. The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund was created to incentivize firms to establish operations that are aligned with the economic strategy Calgary in the New Economy.  

Calgary has a vibrancy that tangibly extends and now has fundamental ambition to support industry-disrupting ideas.  

Together, bright minds make sustainable progress towards a future-proof economy in Calgary. 


For more on the current state of Calgary’s innovation ecosystem, read the whitepaper by registering for immediate access

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