Canada's technology sector has played a crucial role in Canadian employment and economic growth. This role has been further fueled by the global economy's increased demand for technological solutions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the pandemic expected to push the Canadian economy into a recession, economists have been advocating for targeted support of Canadian tech companies with the belief that getting Canadian industries up and running in a post-COVID landscape will require adaptation and innovation supplied by our technology sector. Innovations coming out of Canadian startups and emerging growth companies are being touted as methods to fuel Canada's economic recovery by supporting Canadian industries, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, e-commerce, data and clean technology needs.
133 CEOs of Canadian technology companies have signed a letter advocating on behalf of the tech community, calling upon the Federal Government to put together a bold and cohesive plan to support innovation in Canada. The robust plan would ideally include strategic investment into Canadian tech businesses, commercialization of Canadian ideas, and bolster Canada's protection of intellectual property and data.
Alberta's Supports for Technology Sector
Alberta's economic forecast and anticipated struggles from the pandemic has led to the provincial government's decision to diversify the Albertan economy and shift towards supporting local technological innovation and investment, as outlined in their Recovery Plan. Recently proposed and implemented programs have acknowledged the importance of providing resources, funding, and strategic investments to provincial tech startups and emerging growth companies in order to cultivate Alberta's technological ecosystem and develop a tech-based economy. These programs include the following:
- The Innovation Employment Grant launches in January 2021. This grant has been designed to encourage economic growth by supporting research and development initiatives in Alberta, regardless of industry. By funding up to 20% on qualifying expenditures through the corporate tax system, the Alberta government will be focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises that are making investments in technology and innovation. By providing such a substantial grant, the Innovation Employment Grant is significantly more generous than analogous tax credits being offered by British Columbia and Ontario.
- Alberta Enterprise Corporation's Accelerate Fund III ("Fund III") is a fund that provides funding to Alberta's tech startups and entrepreneurs and aims to match investments from angel investors. Since its inception, Alberta Enterprise Corporation has been helping the province's venture capital industry grow by investing in venture capital funds that finance early-stage technology companies. As part of a recent initiative, the Alberta government has invested an additional $5 million into Fund III, bringing the total funding available for local startups to $15 million.
- Alberta's Major Innovation Fund has recently awarded a total of $11.8 million to the University of Calgary to support technological innovation initiatives. $3 million of this award will go towards the University's quantum technologies research with the aim to attract talent to the province, create long-term jobs, and help commercialize new quantum technologies for a variety of industries. $3.9 million of the award will be used by the University of Calgary to research antimicrobial resistance to help position Alberta as a leader in addressing global challenges associated with bacteria or viruses resisting treatment. The remaining $4.9 million of the award will be put towards the University's SMILE-UVI satellite project to pay for research to study the effect of space radiation on the atmosphere, industrial infrastructure, and technology in applications like enhanced GPS and satellite imaging in oil and gas mining.
- New immigration pathways have been developed by Alberta's government with the intention of attracting investment, creating new high-paying jobs for Albertans, diversifying the province's economy and encouraging international graduates to create startups in Alberta. Beginning October 26, international graduates from Alberta's universities and colleges can apply to the province's International Graduate Entrepreneur Immigration Stream to launch startups in Alberta. Similarly, the Alberta government will be enticing international entrepreneurs to form their startups in Alberta through the Foreign Graduate Start-up Visa Stream, which will roll out in January 2021 with the aim of attracting entrepreneurial international graduates from U.S. universities and colleges.
- Through the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction ("TIER") fund, the Alberta government is investing in a series of programs looking to create thousands of jobs for Albertans while reducing emissions. In a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic and low oil prices, $750 million of the TIER fund and other public and industry supplied funding will be used to support a suite of programs which include investment into local technology and innovation which aim to increase carbon capture, utilization and storage as well as reduce emissions.
- Alberta's government is investing $9 million into the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute ("Amii"), an institute with a mission to make artificial intelligence and machine learning the primary drivers of economic growth for Alberta. The investment will flow through Alberta Innovates and through the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction system, and will permit Amii to continue its world-class research and accelerated commercialization of new technologies while simultaneously helping Alberta companies reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy and agriculture sectors through artificial intelligence and machine learning.
- Along with acting as a conduit for the Alberta government's investment into artificial intelligence, Alberta Innovates is the provinces' largest research and innovation agency. The Alberta government is partnered with Alberta Innovates to ensure that the agency can successfully launch local research and innovation opportunities and policies which align with provincial priorities and initiatives.
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