Here’s the latest on a wide range of innovation in the Edmonton region.
Keeping the right digital talent is key to Edmonton’s recovery, says report
Edmonton is well-placed to contribute to a digital-led recovery from the pandemic, but more needs to be done to attract and retain young talent, says a report from the research arm of the Information and Communications Technology Council.
“With a relatively young population and growing clean tech industry, Edmonton is on a positive growth path,” says A Resilient Recovery: Alberta’s Digital-Led Post-COVID Future, which the Ottawa-based Digital Think Tank by ICTC released on June 30. “Edmonton has a spirit of collaboration that continues to set it apart from other major metropolitan areas.”
But many of the graduates emerging from Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions with tech degrees — of which there were 5,522 between 2015 and 2020 — seem to be unaware of the opportunities for work here, interviewees indicated, calling for further collaboration among industry, governments, and academia to fill employment needs. According to the CBRE, Edmonton added 12,000 tech jobs during 2015 and 2020.
Interviewees also noted a gap in the “skills needed to both design innovative products and ‘translate between the “tech” and “business” sides of companies.'” An analysis of transferable skills in job postings indicated significant interest in digital design (see chart above).
There’s much more in the report, including a look at the promise of and impediments to growing the health-tech sector. Among the contributors were Stewart Cook, Dean of NAIT’s School of Applied Sciences and Technology; Randy Duguay, CEO of Health Gauge; James Keirstead, President of Levven Electronics; Connie Stacey, CEO and Founder of Growing Greener Innovations; Celia Wanderley, Chief Customer Officer and Head of AltaML Invent at AltaML; and Catherine Warren, CEO of Innovate Edmonton.
Funding & Support for Entrepreneurship
- Calgary’s EECOL Electric has formed a partnership with Plug and Play Alberta‘s sector-agnostic program to help selected startups advance AI and ML innovation and adoption in Western Canada.
- Startup TNT‘s Investment Summit V ended up raising more than $1 million for three winning pitches and 10 side deals in Edmonton, Calgary, and Saskatchewan. Edmonton’s Scription and Zero Point Cryogenics shared $313,000 in investment.
- The Edmonton Global podcast, Economic Development Matters, featured Startup TNT founder Zack Storms talking about angel investing and building a startup community.
- Athabasca University recently launched IDEA Lab, which pairs computing resources and a skilled Research Assistant with a project to design and execute. It can support analysis of either qualitative or quantitative data and supports natural language analysis of text as well.
- Truffle, which makes cloud-based software to help restaurants digitize their operations, has raised a $2.3-million seed round to grow its team and expand across Canada. The round was led by Accelerate Fund III, with participation from Sprout Fund and Birchcliff Partners. It has onboarded more than 500 customers across Canada, including Edmonton’s Northern Chicken, Prime Time Donair, and Mikado.
- Dr. Phone Fix, a fast-growing cellphone and electronics repair chain, has opened three stores in the Greater Toronto Area as well as two more in Edmonton, where the company was born in 2019. It’s aiming to have 40 stores by Christmas, reports Retail Insider.
- HonestDoor has expanded across Canada, offering free access to residential property data, as well as some commercial data, to help people know what a property is worth.
- Ryan Tucker of G2V Optics spoke to Taproot’s Bloom podcast about building the company to the point that customers are funding its growth.
Climate Emergency & CleanTech
- 2S Water‘s AquaValid Sensor earned a special mention in the Mining Innovation Challenge for reducing water use, put on by Foresight Canada and the Mining Association of British Columbia.
- Wind power can help Alberta reduce greenhouse gas emissions, David Dickie of the Alternative Energy Program at NAIT told Postmedia in a sponsored post on innovation and technology. Capital Power has five wind facilities in Canada, including two in Alberta. “Our goal is to be net carbon-neutral by 2050 — and wind energy plays an important role in helping us achieve that target,” said Steve Owens, Senior Vice-President of Construction and Engineering for the Edmonton-based utility.
- Alberta’s Industrial Heartland can achieve both economic and environmental objectives, Executive Director Mark Plamondon said in a sponsored post, touting the advanced infrastructure and world-class workforce in the area that stretches through parts of Lamont, Strathcona, and Sturgeon Counties, as well as parts of Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan.
Digital Inclusion & Education
- Three Edmonton organizations — Igbo Cultural Association of Edmonton, Nasipitnons, and Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council — will receive a share of the $2.1 million Alberta Immigrant Mentorship Innovation Grant to help newcomers find employment.
- The provincial government has partnered with the Alberta Construction Association, End Poverty Edmonton, and the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers on a $3.2 million initiative that will provide hands-on training for apprentices looking to enter the construction industry.
Food Security & AgTech
- The Edmonton Food Council is accepting applications for volunteers to help “shape the future of food and agriculture in Edmonton.” Applications will be accepted until Aug. 5.
- Researchers, industry representatives, health practitioners, and patient advocates have been invited to pose problems for the participants in natHACKS to try solving during a 64-hour hackathon put on by NeurAlbertaTech at the end of July. The deadline to register for the hackathon is July 15.
- The Canadian Medical Association Journal’s podcast spoke to Andrew MacIsaac of Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API) about what can be done to fix drug shortages in Canada, including the creation of the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative. “(What) we’re really working to do is build steady-state, small-scale production with the ability to ramp up if there is a shortage, and have that established and the ability to pivot and be responsive to the needs of the health care system,” he said.
- A program based out of the Royal Alexandra Hospital is receiving $1.1 million from the federal government to provide community-level overdose response training and trauma support as well as to direct at-risk people to treatment and prevention resources.
- Ceapro has appointed Sigrun Watson as its Chief Revenue Officer, with a responsibility to develop the company’s cosmeceutical and personal care brand business and expand into the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical markets.
- EPCOR and Stantec were among the 50 companies named to the Corporate Knights list of Canada’s best corporate citizens for 2022.
- The Edmonton Elks have partnered with Windspeaker Media to broadcast the team’s July 22 home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Cree on CFWE 98.5 FM.
Arts & Culture
- The Edmonton Screen Industries Office (ESIO) announced 12 recipients of its Early Stage Project grant for spring of 2022.
- The Girl in His Shadow, co-written by Jaima Fixsen and Regina Sirois under the pseudonym Audrey Blake, got a big boost when OverDrive, the digital lending service used by most North American libraries, chose it for its Big Library Read book club. “I don’t think it ever gets old to just have a single person read your book and enjoy it. But the idea of so many people reading is kind of exciting,” Fixsen told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.
- Little Hellions from Schadenfreude Studio, which got its start at the Game Discovery Exhibition in 2015, will be part of an esports tournament at the revamped GDX taking place at the Maker Faire at K-Days on July 22-24.
Bits & Pieces
- Two University of Alberta astrophysicists are among the Canadian scientists guaranteed 5% of the new James Webb Telescope‘s working time. Erik Rosolowsky intends to study how diffuse clouds of gas become stars, while Gregory Sivakoff will look for the “stellar undead” — former stars that have exhausted their fuel and collapsed.
- The Heartland Petrochemical Complex northeast of Edmonton has produced its first plastic pellets, four years after construction began on the $4.3-billion facility. Owned and operated by Inter Pipeline Ltd. the plant converts propane into polypropylene beads to be used in food packaging, personal protective equipment, textiles, automotive parts, and personal hygiene products.
- Catherine Warren spoke to CBC Edmonton about Innovate Edmonton‘s new Innovation U partnership with the Edmonton Public Library and her role as Innovator in Residence. “There has never been a more important time to innovate as a society, as a planet,” she told Radio Active. “We’re saying take advantage of all that Edmonton has to offer to achieve your innovation potential.”
- Derek Kwan of Interactive Arts Alberta mentioned board member and Inflexion Games CEO Aaryn Flynn as a source of professional development for game developers in the leadup to the resurrected GDX.