Message to the Community

Restoring the Alberta Advantage - How Municipalities and Industry Build Alberta

AUM Ablogpost
Cheryll Watson
Cheryll Watson
January 23, 2020

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Alberta Urban Municipalities Association Panel Discussion

In the coming years, technology will have a massive and transformational impact on our world. It’s everywhere. We all know this.

What deserves your consideration is this: In the years to come, there will be literally trillions of dollars in wealth around the world generated by tech companies that don’t exist today, or perhaps exist, but as early-stage startups.

The degree to which Alberta benefits from the prosperity those companies generate is not random. Policymakers can decide to create the conditions and environment that attract and foster tech-startups, or they can decide not to. It’s a choice.

There are people working all over the world in other jurisdictions who want to eat our lunch. They are actively working right now to create the conditions for success in their own cities and towns and countries, not ours.

Alberta’s two big cities have recently committed to working together to grow our provincial tech sector through an initiative we’re calling the Alberta Innovation Corridor. Through this work we aim to become a globally significant technology hub by coordinating programs and services. Our first big goal is to recruit a major tech accelerator program to Alberta that will help take out startup companies to the scale-up stage through mentorship, connections, and access to global networks.

There is a role for government in building and supporting this sector. And that means spending some money. The question to ask is, can we afford not to?

The current fiscal reality has caused public funding to come under more scrutiny. That’s good. Funding should be scrutinized. Yet, hopefully, elected officials continue to understand the importance of supporting the innovation sector and its link to future economic prosperity.

Even in the current fiscal reality people are still starting companies. The fiscal downturn in Alberta reminds us of the very real imperative to diversify our economy to ensure long-lasting resiliency.

Municipalities should think of investments supporting their technology ecosystems as long-term investments in the economic future of their city or town. Because this takes time

In 2020, every company is a tech company, and if they’re not, they should be. Municipally funded economic development organizations should be turning their sights to innovation and tech. If they aren’t, you should be asking why.

Right now, there is an opportunity for municipalities to lean into this sector. In Edmonton, we’re fortunate our City Council saw the potential we have here and decided to harness it by creating an Innovation Authority that promotes cross-sector collaboration.

Municipalities should think of investments supporting their technology ecosystems as long-term investments in the economic future of their city or town. Because this takes time.

We talk about tech companies seeing “overnight success,” but the truth is their success came after years of hard work through many trials and tribulations. In Edmonton specifically, Jobber and Drivewyze have been growing for half a decade. In fact, Jobber was one of municipally-funded Startup Edmonton’s earliest Launch Party successes. And a decade later we’re seeing that investment pay off.

It’s these kind of long-term growth successes from the innovation ecosystem that will form the backbone of Edmonton’s economy.

Working to provide value in the innovation sector takes spending a lot of time talking to the entrepreneurial community to make sure we’re providing what they actually need, not just what we think they need.

At Innovate Edmonton, we use our municipal funding to help tech founders and their teams bring ground-breaking ideas to market by bringing together people, resources, and investment. Many cities around the world now have organizations like ours as part of their economic development work. And I think, if I might be so bold, that our organization and our partners will play a critical role in building Alberta’s prosperity for the next generation.

And none of us in Alberta have to do it alone. We’ve started talking about the Alberta Innovation Corridor as a Calgary-Edmonton partnership, positioning our province on the world stage. There’s no reason other municipalities can’t harness the same spirit of collaboration.

The more we work together and build our tech ecosystem in Alberta, the better chance we have of making a mark on the global stage.

So contact us! And Terry Rock and the team at Platform Calgary. Let’s collaborate to build resilient prosperity in Alberta.

Contact

Cheryll Watson
Cheryll Watson
VP Innovate Edmonton
Email innovate@edmonton.com

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