Here’s the latest on a wide range of innovation in the Edmonton region. Feel free to share it and let us know how we can improve the Blast. Let’s begin!
I Heart AB Tech campaign warmly received amidst calls for unified innovation narrative
“We’ve got something really great here in Alberta … but I would say that we aren’t telling the world, and we aren’t even telling those outside of the tech space,” said co-CEO Nicole Janssen.
People like Christy Holtby of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Ashif Mawji of Rising Tide, Shaheel Hooda of Sprout Fund, Zack Storms of Startup TNT, Aaryn Flynn of Inflexion Games, and many others shared pictures of themselves wearing the campaign T-shirt and expressing why they support the campaign.
The campaign launched the same week as the Rainforest Summit took place, featuring a panel on Edmonton’s innovation story. Christopher Micetich of Brass Dome Ventures, sporting a campaign T-shirt, said a unified narrative about innovation is needed.
“If you go to places like Silicon Valley, San Francisco, (they’re) highly competitive, but they all work together, they all share a common narrative … We haven’t learned to do that in Edmonton,” he said.
But fellow panellist Myrna Bittner, CEO and Co-Founder of RUNWITHIT Synthetics, questioned that idea and said it’s the ideas and talent emerging from Edmonton rather than the city’s reputation that makes the difference on the world stage.
“You may not know where Edmonton is … but it doesn’t matter because we have kick-a**, world-winning tech,” Bittner said.
Funding & Support for Entrepreneurship
- Health Cities has resumed its Companies Growing Companies series, which explores what it takes to succeed and grow in the health innovation sector. Next up is a conversation with Best Buy Health and AGE-WELL on April 28.
- Applications open March 31 for the 2022 YEG Startup Community Awards, recognizing the “boldest risk-takers in Edmonton.” This will be the second year for the awards, which honoured 12 organizations and individuals in May 2021.
- ICYMI, Rainforest Alberta shared the results of its 2021 scorecards on the entrepreneurial ecosystems in Edmonton and Calgary in a new video.
- Leduc residents are among the first recipients of the Smart Hub technology and 5G network that TELUS is rolling out to more than 60 rural communities by the end of the year.
- Alberta has set its sights on becoming a North American hub for cryptocurrency. “It’s still very much in its infancy in Alberta,” Jobs Minister Doug Schweitzer told the Canadian Press. “But I think there’s an opportunity for Alberta to play a leadership role in Canada by creating a home for these venture companies.” The story lists Bitcoin Well as one of several cryptocurrency companies establishing themselves here.
- Correct-AI, which uses AI to keep heavy-duty equipment operators safer, was highlighted as one of the five top AI robot solutions by StartUs Insights.
- TransPod has secured US$550 million to finance the next phase of a hyperloop system between Edmonton and Calgary, having signed an agreement in principle with Broughton Capital Group and China-East Resources Import & Export Co. (CEIRCO). The proposed hyperloop system will transport passengers and cargo in a low-pressure tube and cost a person about $90 to take a 45-minute trip between the two cities. CEO Sebastien Gendron hopes to have government approval by this summer, at which point TransPod will create a plan to disburse the investment.
Climate Emergency & CleanTech
- Three Edmonton companies — Environmental Material Science, Nanode Battery Technologies, and Quantum Silicon — are among the five finalists that will be pitching at the finale of Startup TNT’s Cleantech Summit on April 7 in Calgary.
- Calgary-based Innova Hydrogen and the University of Alberta announced a joint research project called Decarbonizing Canada’s Hydrogen Production Using Low-Cost Methane Pyrolysis Catalytic Reactors, which has received $1.2 million in funding through Mitacs. The project is slated to start in March 2022 and continue until March 2027.
- The Government of Canada announced over $12 million in funding for seven clean tech organizations, including Edmonton’s Applied Quantum Materials, which is receiving $700,000 for its initiative to convert glass windows into scalable solar concentrators. The announcement was made at GLOBE Forum 2022, which brings together sustainability leaders from across Canada.
Digital Inclusion & Education
- More needs to be done to make Indigenous students feel welcome in engineering, Daxton Dion-Hoffman wrote in a guest column for The Gateway.
- Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton will be the first junior high in Alberta to launch an esports academy for students who want to enter competitive video games. The curriculum is now being designed, but a representative said the academy will resemble other Vimy Ridge sports programs with designated times throughout the day to play.
Food Security & AgTech
- The Uproot Food Collective was featured in the ATCOenergy Stands Behind campaign, with Allen Yee and Chris Lerohl talking about how the company has grown.
- Freshlocal Solutions will use the $4.4 million in funding it has received from Prairies Economic Development Canada to expand SPUD Alberta‘s operations and further enhance its FoodX eGrocery Management Solution, with the goal to reduce food waste and enhance the local food supply chain.
- Vertical farming holds plenty of promise to diversify Alberta’s economy, but the provincial government could do more to promote it, Sturgeon Country farmer Bob Holm told St. Albert Today. “Every gas plant we’re shutting down, there should be a greenhouse there producing food for Albertans,” he said.
- An increase in cost of living has affected the ability to access affordable healthy food, but initiatives are finding innovative ways to provide barrier-free meals. “People don’t realize how close to the edges many people are,” Chelsea Burke of Common Thread Community Kitchen told CBC’s Radio Active. “Utilities are going up and people have to choose between food and rent, or food and gas.”
- Edmonton-based PulseMedica has raised an oversubscribed $2.6-million seed round, which it largely plans to use to run its first clinical trial beginning in June. The company-led round, which includes more than $500,000 from Startup TNT’s Investment Summit IV last fall, will also help PulseMedica finish building its device as it works on getting approvals from Health Canada ahead of the clinical study.
- The University of Alberta’s Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology is seeking $20 million in federal funding to facilitate the rollout of six vaccines and drugs for clinical and commercial use. Full commercialization of the products, which include a hepatitis C vaccine, could generate as much as $1.5 billion in royalties in 15 years, according to a memo by a senior official with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada that was attained by The Logic.
- Dr. Ratmir Derda, Founder of 48Hour Discovery, received the award for scientific achievement and innovation at last week’s BioAlberta gala in Edmonton. His company, which grew out of the University of Alberta’s expertise in glycomics and machine learning, accelerates drug discovery from months to days.
- The BioAlberta Awards also inducted Dr. Michael Houghton into the BioIndustry Hall of Fame. The Nobel laureate’s research at the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute led to the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, as well as the ability to keep it out of the blood supply and develop treatments for it.
- Ashif Mawji of the TELUS Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator, Lana Cuthbertson of Areto Labs, and Darby Walton of PALCares spoke to Amplify Your Business about building a social-impact business.
- A study by accounting software company Sage cited AdaptAbilities in a report on digital transformation at Canadian nonprofits. “The very interesting mindset change that really occurred for us with COVID-19 is technology was not seen as a cost centre, but technology was seen as an enabler – we invested money to make money,” director of corporate services Jennifer Neal said in the news release about the study.
Bits & Pieces
- Jobber came in at #30 in the computer technology category of the Narwhal List for 2022, which ranks private Canadian technology companies best poised to become world-class firms.
- True Angle‘s Jana Rieger spoke to Dr. John Wolfaardt about being a technological disruptor in health care on her YouTube series, Enjoy the Life You’re Living.
- Cory Janssen of AltaML and Sam Jenkins of Punchcard Systems spoke to The Globe and Mail about the challenges Canadian tech companies face in competing to recruit and retain talent.
- Katrina Ingram of Ethically Aligned AI summarized what startups want to know about AI ethics based on questions she’s fielded at Startup Edmonton.