Calgary Economic Development’s Life Sciences Value Proposition and Competitiveness Study conducted by KPMG assesses the city’s strengths as a leader in global health solutions against eight jurisdictions in North America. A fact sheet about Calgary’s life sciences ecosystem can be found on the sector page.
The life sciences industry is identified as an emerging sector in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. With a vision to be the city of choice for entrepreneurs who embrace technology to solve the world’s greatest challenges – including better health solutions – Calgary has competitive advantages to attract more investment, jobs and growth in life sciences.
In a study conducted for Calgary Economic Development, the city demonstrated strengths in several life sciences sub-sectors and ranked third overall against North American cities in respect to research and development (R&D) of tangible products.
Cities in the comparative analysis included Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Houston, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis and Denver. Compared to these peer cities, Calgary ranks first in competitiveness for tax costs and transportation costs for system assembly, and second for labour costs in terms of distribution centres.
A major reason why Calgary is competitive in the life sciences is the top-tier institutions in the city, which produce internationally recognized R&D, including the International Microbiome Centre – the world’s largest germfree facility – and the Calgary Cancer Centre – the second largest in North America once completed in 2023.
The city also has a supportive innovation ecosystem with investment from industry, research organizations and all levels of government. Homegrown start-ups are at the forefront of turning R&D insights into tangible health solutions with the support of several local business incubators and accelerators like the Life Sciences Innovation Hub, BiohubX, HATCH-YYC and Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies.
Post-secondary education programs, such as the University of Calgary’s Biomedical Engineering Program, help provide the sector with skilled talent across the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, while the city’s reputation as a top liveable city helps attract and retain this top talent.
Growth in the sector is enabled by Calgary’s logistics and distribution advantages and its ability to access national and global markets. Calgary has linkages to the rest of Canada, the United States and Mexico, which support cold chain distribution. Furthermore, Canada has 14 active free trade agreements covering 51 countries, connecting businesses to 1.5 billion consumers and nearly two-thirds of the world’s GDP.
Alberta Health Services is also Canada’s largest and only province-wide integrated health system and a significant procurer of life science products and services. The AHS Calgary Zone includes 14 hospitals, 3,076 physicians, 37,000 employees and 4,623 volunteers.
The KPMG study identified key global trends in the life sciences to consider as the industry grows and matures in Calgary. This includes the application of new technologies like blockchain, AI, and 5G, along with demographic shifts, which are putting pressure on the sector as populations age.
Aligning investment efforts with the city's strengths in disruptive technology will ensure sustainable growth of the life sciences ecosystem.