The long-awaited innovation hub is set to officially open its doors in 2022.
The federal government announced that it’s investing $2 million CAD to help complete the Platform Innovation Centre in downtown Calgary. The funds will be used to complete the interior design and construction of the 50,000 square foot centre.
Platform Calgary said in January that it had raised $5 million toward the centre’s cost from prominent members of Calgary’s tech sector and investment community. Since then, Platform Calgary has raised another $500,000 from the private sector, as well as using capital from the sale of a building it owned toward the centre.
“These local companies in Calgary are leading the way in innovation and reaching new markets.”
Platform Calgary occupies two floors within the $80 million building. Its portion of the building is worth $27 million. Terry Rock, Platform Calgary’s president and CEO, told BetaKit the organization is fundraising to a total of $12 million, and has just over $4 million left to raise to meet that goal. “We’re still fundraising from other orders of government and the private sector,” Rock said.
Located in Calgary’s East Village neighbourhood, the building is being constructed in partnership with the Calgary Parking Authority and Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.
When it opens this year, the centre will host some 60 service providers and business accelerators that will support Calgary entrepreneurs, and small-and-medium businesses with programs, mentoring, networking, and access to capital.
A number of organizations have already pledged to move into the centre, including the Canadian seed accelerator The Accelerator, Alberta Enterprise Corporation, InternGen, Thin Air Labs, BDC, and Lighthouse Labs.
While the building will contain the innovation centre it is being built around a 510-stall, seven-level parkade.
At the same event where the federal government announced the Platform Calgary funding, it also revealed that it is providing more than $22.3 million CAD in interest-free, repayable funding to 13 technology startups in Calgary.
The funding for the startups is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs, according to the federal government
The funding for the firms comes from Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) through its business scale-up and productivity program. That program supports high-growth businesses that are scaling up and producing innovative goods, services, or technologies.
“These local companies in Calgary are leading the way in innovation and reaching new markets,” said Daniel Vandal, minister of Northern Affairs, minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada, and minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
“Our government’s major investment in these 13 leading-edge companies across Calgary, combined with our support for the Platform Innovation Centre in the downtown core, will help ensure the continued growth of Alberta’s thriving technology sector and create quality jobs that help drive our economy forward,” the minister added.
MyHeat, a startup that uses remote sensing and artificial intelligence to find wasted energy in buildings; and Nanalysis Corp, a startup that manufactures nuclear magnetic resonance products are among the recipients of the loans. MyHeat received $1.6 million while Nanalysis got $4.9 million.
The funding extended across tech sectors with money for cleantech firms, AgTech startups, Internet of Things platforms, and Saas and e-commerce startups.
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The federal funding arrives as the Province of Alberta is in the midst of expanding its tech sector. Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy, and innovation, told BetaKit in April 2021: “We don’t want [Alberta] to just be a player. We want to become a dominant player in the whole innovation space in Canada.”
As part of that goal, the Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, and PrairiesCan have provided funding to Alberta Innovates to lead and manage an initiative to attract accelerators to Edmonton and Calgary. Municipal funding for the project has come from Innovate Edmonton.
Government of Alberta crown corporation Alberta Innovates has delivered on its promise to attract accelerators to the province. In November 2021, it announced Plug and Play would open a main office in Calgary with a satellite office in Edmonton. Plug and Play is a Silicon Valley-headquartered innovation hub, early-stage investor, and accelerator.
Along with Plug and Play, Alberta Innovates also said it would support a joint Platform Calgary and Innovate Edmonton-run pre-accelerator program, and Silicon Valley-based 500 Global (formerly 500 Startups) and Alchemist Accelerator.
The Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program aims to support the growth of more early-stage Alberta tech startups by providing mentoring, networking, access to capital and other services. It also seeks to draw more companies from around the world to Alberta. Governments have committed to invest as much as $35 million CAD in the Scaleup GAP program.
Overall, Alberta Innovates has been tasked with creating 900 new companies, 20,000 new jobs, and $5 billion in technology firm revenue in the province by 2030.
The Alberta government also launched a new immigration stream in January meant to help tech companies solve an access to talent issue.
The province announced the creation of the Accelerated Tech Pathway, which will provide a fast track to permanent residence for highly skilled tech professionals that want to live and work in Alberta.
The new immigration stream – part of the federal-provincial Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) – is something the Alberta tech and innovation community has been calling for as companies face a shortage of qualified tech talent.
“We’re really grateful to the federal government for coming to the table and they’ve got a fantastic set of programs to support innovation,” Rock said regarding the funding for Platform Calgary. “We’re happy to be part of it.”
Photo courtesy Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.