Connector Profile: Innovate Calgary and AlbertaIN
Who are they?
Innovate Calgary is all about supporting innovation. Period.
They nurture new ideas and their creators along the entire pipeline of innovation and through each stage of development - from invention at the concept stage, all the way to the acceleration of a proven innovation. Their approach also recognizes that game-changing innovation cannot happen in a vacuum, but “takes an ecosystem to drive the commercialization success of an innovation or discovery”.
Harnessing this ecosystem is what Tara Barnas, Innovate Calgary’s director of Marketing & Communications, believes will get Calgary recognized as a global leader in innovation. By taking a systems-thinking approach, they’re able to consistently recognize potential for cross-sector collaboration, leading to growth on both the commercial and social sides of the coin.
This potential for the…‘sum of our actions to be greater than our parts’ ...is what led Alberta’s innovation ecosystem of support providers to drive the development of AlbertaIN, a “community driven and community owned online directory tool for entrepreneurs”. Launched October 7st 2015, over 70 service providers specializing in supporting innovation have already signed on – 34 of which offer services for social innovators.
Similar to the way many non-profits harnessed Alberta’s entrepreneurial skill-set and spirit to develop numerous successful social enterprises in the province, we need to blur the lines between mainstream innovation and social innovation in Alberta. Both ecosystems have a lot to learn from one another and a lot of intersections to discover. Innovate Calgary and the AlbertaIN community hope to facilitate as much ‘ecosystem mingling’ as they can.
o Innovate Calgary has two main offerings:
a) They help inventors and innovators get a product or solution licensed to an existing entity, and;
b) They offer entrepreneurs startup services to help develop their own organization or business while providing entrepreneurial development programs to get their business market-ready
To support social innovation specifically, they provide a diverse range of specialized services - ranging from intellectual property support, to co-working space, to the facilitation of key partnerships and referrals.
In 2014/2015, Innovate Calgary worked with 6 social innovation technologies and provided services to 4 social innovation start-ups. An example of the kind of services social entrepreneurs and innovators are accessing is Rebecca Sullivan's (U of C) Gender @ Work Project. Gender @ Work is a social enterprise that facilitates organizational change and promotes equity in the workplace. Innovate Calgary has supported Gender @ Work by providing access to: Mitacs Funding, the BLG Law Clinic, Venture Development Service, and TEC Edmonton health accelerator.
The Future They Want to See
Innovate Calgary boldly states on their website that the future they want to see, is Calgary acting as the leading innovation ecosystem in Canada. How do they plan to make this happen? According to Ken Porter, Vice President, Intellectual Property Management, “Driving an awareness that researchers and innovators can identify another way to disseminate their work - through social enterprise - to invoke social change.”
AlbertaIN plans to continue to strengthen the support network for innovative idea/product/program development throughout the province, and thus has plans to expand their network to include the more Northern Albertan service providers by 2017. They want to see an Alberta that provides a strong, well networked community to foster innovative ideas that lead to the growth of innovative solutions and enterprises.
That sounds like the kind of Alberta we’d like to see too!