Ed McCauley is the president of the University of Calgary. Photo supplied.
Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.
The University of Calgary is the entrepreneurial university. Our entrepreneurial thinking is found in research of all kinds, and is also on display in our growing innovation ecosystem.
Over the past 30 years, it’s produced more than 2,200 inventions. More than 20 companies are tenants in our Life Sciences Innovation Hub, with its more than 35,000 square feet of lab space. And recently, one of the newest parts of our ecosystem — the unique UCeed program, which provides funding for startup companies — added an exciting new stream for businesses with social impact.
UCalgary’s community partnerships are important to us. We’re thrilled and honoured United Way of Calgary and Area chose UCeed’s Social Impact Fund to make life in Calgary better. It donated $2.5 million, and applications are open for social enterprises who believe their product or process can lift people up while creating local jobs. To meet Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s goal of being, “Canada’s city of choice for the world’s best entrepreneurs,” we need a vibrant social infrastructure, which UCeed’s Social Impact Fund will help create, complementing existing supports to fuel innovative solutions to social problems.
Social finance doesn’t replace traditional charitable work. It adds to it, giving us another tool to address problems, and UCalgary’s tradition in social enterprise is a proud one. In the 1980s, UCalgary professors launched LivingWorks, which has revolutionized suicide prevention in more than 30 countries. More than two million people have been empowered to prevent suicide. But Living Works doesn’t only save lives — it employs people.
Another example is a recent innovation by YW Calgary, which has developed a mental health app to improve workplace wellness. Innovation jobs can be created in every endeavour, and UCeed’s Social Impact Fund can help create those jobs here while leveraging the market’s power to help solve social or environmental problems.
Social enterprise is also a large market. It’s been used in Britain for many years, and in Canada between 2007 and 2018, $1.5 billion was invested in 285 ventures. Here in Alberta, it needs support to begin to flourish. UCeed is specifically designed to deliver that support, in the most trying part of a startup company’s life: the gap between conception and commercialization.
The university is filling that gap, in partnership with United Way, among others. And in the process, helping to make our social infrastructure more robust and our economy more diverse.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.