Illustration by Scott Carmichael

Alberta Innovates CEO Laura Kilcrease on Why Innovation

Lately, we've been hearing a lot aboutthe "new normal" - what the world will look like after this global pandemic hasleft its mark on every aspect of our lives. For us at Alberta Innovates, we arealways talking about the next bold idea or the next big shift that has the potentialto change how we go about our day to day lives. This creativity is at the heartof innovation - ways that we can use new knowledge or technologies to solveproblems and create new opportunities.

Innovation is key to growing Alberta'seconomy, expanding our markets and most importantly, generating new and differentopportunities for Albertans. Often, people think that innovation is justtechnology - but it's far greater than that.

  • Alberta is home to Canada'slargest integrated provincial health-care system producing unprecedented amountsof data. Digital health technologies and artificial intelligence can accelerateimprovements in nearly every aspect of the quality and long-term sustainabilityof our health system and the health of Albertans.
  • Our agricultural sector is usingadvanced sensors, remote monitoring, automation, artificial intelligence andblockchain technology creating sustainable production, new digital jobs andimproved food security at home and worldwide.
  • Alberta is home to natural materialsneeded to responsibly supply global demand for carbon fibre, asphalt, polymers,vanadium and other innovative hydrocarbon products. Markets for these advancedmaterials are estimated to reach more than $212 billion by 2030.
  • Alberta is a global leader in artificialintelligence and machine learning thanks to 20 years of publicly fundedresearch. Artificial intelligence is estimated to add up to $16 trillion toglobal economic output over the next decade and is already transforming everysector and region.

Innovation isn't new for Alberta. It'sbeen the backbone of our economy for a century and has led to global leadershipin many sectors. Looking to the next 100 years, our support for innovators, entrepreneurship,and work with industry leaders must continue. Innovation will solve challengesand build new capacity in the digital economy - from health to smartagriculture and advanced hydrocarbons - all of which leverage existing advantagesand strengths.

The creation and commercialization of newtechnologies and knowledge-based products is key to Alberta's future. We haveall the pieces in place to build a technology-rich economy that will allow usto compete with other global leaders. Alberta has an active investment capitalmarket, leading universities and the supports to move startups to scale andmarket commercialization sooner.

It's no secret that innovative economiescreate highly skilled jobs, higher wages, more productivity and exports, andare 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 inAlberta.  It's going to take resolve andcoordination to shift priorities and to concentrate efforts that position Albertafor the advantages and opportunities a research and innovation focused economycan bring.  But the size of the prize isimmense.

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.