May 25, 2020

Support for small and medium-sized businesses in Alberta’s research & innovation ecosystem

Providing business support on the front lines 

Alberta Innovates recently invested $3.16 million in Regional Innovation Networks (RINs), injecting new funds in a vital system that fosters start-ups and entrepreneurs across the province by bringing together resources and support for high potential, high growth technology-based Alberta companies.

These new grants to support the operation of eight RINs come at a critical time when the provincial economy has been battered. This brings the total amount Alberta Innovates has invested in RINs to $13.7 million over three years starting in April 2019, to help spur tech-based economic growth around the province.

Regional Innovation Networks (RINs) were started 12 years ago as part of the 2008 provincial Action Plan for Bringing Technology to Market. Since then, three RINs expanded to eight creating a provincewide network ready to assist Alberta technology- and knowledge-based companies with coaching, networking and access to capital.   

These innovation networks serve the following regions from their base locations:

  • northwestern Alberta (Grande Prairie); 
  • northeastern Alberta (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo); 
  • east-central Alberta (Lloydminster); Edmonton; 
  • central Alberta (Red Deer); Calgary; 
  • southeastern Alberta (Medicine Hat), and
  • southern Alberta (Lethbridge).

Learn more about Alberta’s Regional Innovation Networks

The impact

“As the province begins to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and a collapse in global oil prices, regional innovation can help restart our economy,” says Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates.

“COVID-19 brings into sharp relief how useful the RINS have become in coalescing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurial communities provincewide. When COVID-19 shut down a significant portion of business activity, RIN members responded quickly to pool information and resources to help them with their immediate business needs and provide their community with trusted advisors and coaches,” Kilcrease adds.

Terry Rock, President & CEO of Platform Calgary noted the value of investment in RINS is “really coming to life in our current times with COVID-19.

“We’re on the ground with the people and businesses, and these RINs represent an advantage our province has that maybe others don’t. That should really be applauded,” he said.

Hear more from Terry Rock and others in this special instalment of the Alberta Innovates Shift podcast focused on business during COVID-19.  

Programming, services and unparalleled networking opportunities 

The goal of Alberta’s Regional Innovation Networks is to create a community-based network of programs and services to accelerate growth of technology and knowledge-based businesses. 

“Innovation helps all sectors grow and expand. RINs are a huge advantage for Alberta and are helping businesses create thousands of jobs across our province by providing capital and coaching to high-potential, high growth technology and knowledge-based small and medium businesses in Alberta,” said Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, Tanya Fir.

Coaching, community and capital 

Alberta Innovates Technology Development Advisors (TDAs) work within each of the Regional Innovation Networks as senior business advisors. They provide access to coaching, community, and capital for high potential, high growth, technology- or knowledge-based Alberta small and medium size enterprises that are at the committing, validating or scaling stage of their client journey

The TDAs provide one-on-one guidance and community connections. They also assist in identifying non-dilutive capital to support entrepreneurs and SMEs in technology or knowledge-based industries developing innovative technology.  

Learn more about the Technology Development Advisor in your area. 

Helping companies grow and succeed 

We also offer a highly competitive program called the Executive Business Advisor program that provides executive-level support and guidance to later-stage companies that need just a bit more help to get them over the top. Under this program, we pair an Executive Business Advisor (EBA) with a successful entrepreneur. The EBA works as an “entrepreneur in residence” to help guide strategically chosen Alberta companies in going further.

Learn more about our Executive Business Advisor program.


Regional Innovation Networks undertook numerous activities across Alberta in 2019. Here are some highlights:

  • Clients supported through meaningful activity by RINs – 2,941
  • Collaborations – 158
  • Partnerships – 42
  • Number of prototypes developed by companies participating in Alberta RINs – 509

Our support for SMEs through our Entrepreneurial Investments programs has resulted in significant job creation and follow-on investment. And Alberta SMEs funded by Alberta Innovates have a higher survival rate compared to the Canadian average:

  • 2.079 net new jobs were created, 89 per cent full time.
  • $1.00 of Alberta Innovates funding leveraged $29.83 in follow-on investment.
  • When surveyed in 2019, 88 per cent of Alberta SMEs funded by Alberta Innovates had survived six years after incorporation, compared to 58 per cent of Canadian SMEs.

We collect information through an annual survey that captures the post-investment performance of those funded, for up to five years after funding completion. See our 2019 Annual Report for more details.