Alberta’s innovation community urges UCP government to act on expert panel’s report
May 13, 2020
Members of Alberta’s technology and innovation ecosystem are calling on the Jason Kenney government to release and act on the recommendations of the Innovation Capital Working Group expert panel, to support the struggling tech sector.
In an open letter by more than 550 Alberta-based entrepreneurs and innovators, the signatories recommend that public money be used to provide matching funds to incent the flow of private capital and de-risk early-stage investment in startups.
They also urge the Alberta government and local municipalities to use their purchasing power to become a customer of Alberta-made tech, especially from globally established companies “that are now facing slowing growth or decline due to the (COVID-19) crisis.”
“This isn’t just about surviving a crisis. This is about working together to ensure Alberta leads the way on the national stage during recovery,” their letter states.
Along with tech firm owners and operators, signatories include leaders from Calgary Economic Development, Downtown Business Association of Edmonton, Platform Calgary, Business Council of Alberta, RBC Royal Bank, TELUS, Deloitte, ARC Financial Corporation, University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Mount Royal University, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, Innovation Canada, as well as venture capital firms and angel investment groups.
Tanya Fir, Alberta’s economic development minister, created the Innovation Capital Working Group panel on December 17, 2019. The seven-member panel, co-chaired by Joseph Doucet, dean of the University of Alberta School of Business, and Adam Legge, president of the Business Council of Canada, included academic, business and tech leaders tasked with providing recommendations on how to attract capital for early-stage tech companies.
The panel had until Feb. 28 to report, so the government has had the report for more than two months.
“We haven’t made a decision on the release of the report yet. We are still reviewing the report and working on our next steps and our analysis of the recommendations,” Justin Brattinga, press secretary for Alberta Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, said in an email to Research Money.
In their letter, the innovation ecosystem members point out that prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Alberta tech generated $15.6 billion in GDP and employed approximately 68,500 people in core digital and technology positions, according to figures from Invest Alberta.
With the right support, they say Alberta’s tech sector could add another 9,000 high-paying jobs by 2023, rising to as many as 100,000 jobs by 2030, according to data from the Information and Communications Technology Council.
Last fall, the UCP government scrapped five tax credits created by the former NDP government aimed at helping tech companies. The government maintained the credits targeted a small, select group of companies and that axing them would save $400 million by 2023.