The Government of Canada, through PrairiesCan, announced $6.1 million in funding to a pair of city initiatives that aim to give more access to the City of Calgary, and foreign investment.
A little over $3.1 million is being invested into a new City of Calgary run Technology Integration Centre, which will allow for small and medium businesses (SME) direct access to City of Calgary business units to work on experimental municipally focused technology.
A second $3 million investment over three years from PrairiesCan towards Calgary Economic Development, will be used to increase foreign investment into Calgary SMEs and retain those businesses in the city.
“The City of Calgary and Calgary Economic Development are stepping up, and I’m proud to say that our government is right here to support them,” said Calgary Skyview MP George Chahal, who made the announcement on behalf of PrairiesCan minister Dan Vandal.
The pair of investments are expected to support 300 local businesses and lead to the creation of more than 1,000 jobs.
The funding is being made available through Regional Innovation Ecosystems, through Regional Economic Growth through Innovation funding. Since 2020, that program has invested over $146 million into Calgary-based businesses and organizations.
Making it faster and easier to work with the City of Calgary
The Technology Integration Centre is currently under development at the City’s IT building, the Andrew Davison Building.
The facility will give SMEs direct access to the City of Calgary’s fibre networks for experimentation with new technology, while being separate from the operations network, and would allow access to city infrastructure, post-secondary institutions, health centres, utility providers, and commercial data centres.
“There is experimentation. You can try out software, hardware, various other technologies, and not put any risk in our operational environment,” said Jan Bradley, Chief Information Technology Officer for the City of Calgary.
Non-standard technology, which would otherwise not be used in City of Calgary operations, would be encouraged to be used and tested at the centre.
She said that funding from PrairiesCan would bolster the funding already provided under the Smart Cities budget from the City.
“The center will not only be a hub for experimentation it will be a catalyst for collaboration. Together we can leverage the exciting potential of technology to address the challenges and opportunities facing our city such as climate change, social equity, economic diversification, and engagement,” Bradley said.
Bradley said that the city has already identified approximately 20 projects for the new centre in the realm of emerging technology, including that of autonomous vehicles.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that the centre would allow the City of Calgary to directly engage with businesses wanting to work on problems the city faces, without having to go through the city’s formal procurement process.
“Sometimes we’ve got a lot of great organizations within our city businesses that are doing good work, but for them to actually connect with us and offer us a solution requires going through a pretty clunky procurement process,” the mayor said.
“This gives us the opportunity to actually see if something could work, and if it could work and make life better, then we’re able to implement. It could be anything from wearable technologies. It could be something like making sure that we are able to detect cracks in our pavement before they become a major problem.”
The centre is expected to be operational in 2024.
Calgary Economic Development plan a year in the making
Calgary Economic Development CEO Brad Parry said that his organization’s new program has been a year in the making.
He said that the funding provided by PrairiesCan would be matched funding for the organization’s efforts.
“For us, this is an incredible investment that just goes and reinforces the belief in the work that we’re doing, the support that we have for our community and for industry in our city,” said Parry.
“As we all know, 70% of job growth will come from existing businesses in our city, and this investment will help us drive that.”
He said that the PrairiesCan funding would allow Calgary to continue to define it’s own message to foreign investors, and to attract top talent for Calgary businesses.
“I think from our perspective, the ability for us to attract and retain the talent that we need to help our companies grow is tantamount to continuing our cities progression as becoming the desk a global destination for those who want to solve those challenges that are truly causing worry in the world today,” Parry said.
Mayor Gondek said that Parry and his team have been “laser focused” on spotlighting Calgary in cities around the globe.
“Their cross-sectoral commitment assists in positioning Calgary as a city of stability and a city of certainty, where a diverse economy encourages growth and success for everyone,” Mayor Gondek said.