May 28, 2020

Innovation is key to the “new normal”

Illustration by Scott Carmichael

Alberta Innovates CEO Laura Kilcrease on Why Innovation

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about the “new normal” – what the world will look like after this global pandemic has left its mark on every aspect of our lives. For us at Alberta Innovates, we are always talking about the next bold idea or the next big shift that has the potential to change how we go about our day to day lives. This creativity is at the heart of innovation – ways that we can use new knowledge or technologies to solve problems and create new opportunities.

Innovation is key to growing Alberta’s economy, expanding our markets and most importantly, generating new and different opportunities for Albertans. Often, people think that innovation is just technology – but it’s far greater than that.

  • Alberta is home to Canada’s largest integrated provincial health-care system producing unprecedented amounts of data. Digital health technologies and artificial intelligence can accelerate improvements in nearly every aspect of the quality and long-term sustainability of our health system and the health of Albertans.
  • Our agricultural sector is using advanced sensors, remote monitoring, automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology creating sustainable production, new digital jobs and improved food security at home and worldwide.
  • Alberta is home to natural materials needed to responsibly supply global demand for carbon fibre, asphalt, polymers, vanadium and other innovative hydrocarbon products. Markets for these advanced materials are estimated to reach more than $212 billion by 2030.
  • Alberta is a global leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning thanks to 20 years of publicly funded research. Artificial intelligence is estimated to add up to $16 trillion to global economic output over the next decade and is already transforming every sector and region.

Innovation isn’t new for Alberta. It’s been the backbone of our economy for a century and has led to global leadership in many sectors. Looking to the next 100 years, our support for innovators, entrepreneurship, and work with industry leaders must continue. Innovation will solve challenges and build new capacity in the digital economy – from health to smart agriculture and advanced hydrocarbons – all of which leverage existing advantages and strengths.

The creation and commercialization of new technologies and knowledge-based products is key to Alberta’s future. We have all the pieces in place to build a technology-rich economy that will allow us to compete with other global leaders. Alberta has an active investment capital market, leading universities and the supports to move startups to scale and market commercialization sooner.

It’s no secret that innovative economies create highly skilled jobs, higher wages, more productivity and exports, and are generally more competitive. Holding fast to the status quo is not an option – we need to support, celebrate and build up Alberta’s innovation culture – that unique combination of human ingenuity and resources which are abundant in Alberta.  It’s going to take resolve and coordination to shift priorities and to concentrate efforts that position Alberta for the advantages and opportunities a research and innovation focused economy can bring.  But the size of the prize is immense.

Through innovation, we have the opportunity of a century to shape the future and to strengthen economic resilience for Albertans today and generations to come.