Alberta Innovates, the crown corporation for the Government of Alberta that promotes innovation in the province, has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the development of new business and technology accelerators in the region.
“Our goal is to make Alberta a hub for high-growth entrepreneurial businesses.”
The organization announced the RFP Wednesday, noting it is seeking three or more technology or business accelerators to help address the scale-up gap experienced in the province and to generally support Alberta startups and small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“While we need many more startups at the start of the funnel, we also need to ensure we are scaling up those businesses and helping them achieve growth,” said Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation. “By increasing the number of successful scale-ups in the province, we create jobs and attract investment.”
Up to $25 million in funding is available to the three or more accelerators that come to the province, based on a three-year contract. The crown corporation also noted an option to extend the contract for an additional two years. Alberta Innovates said it will consider both private and not-for-profit acceleration models.
According to Alberta Innovate’s statement on the RFP, Alberta has a scale-up gap, with half of all startups surviving over five years, but only 0.1 percent of small firms becoming mid-sized and only two percent of mid-sized firms growing to become large companies.
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Alberta Innovates RFP is part of the organization’s assigned strategy to attract global technology firms and investment to Alberta and increase the local innovation sector’s notoriety around the world. As part of the province’s 2021 budget, Alberta Innovates was allotted operating expense increases of $15 million in 2021 and 2022, and $10 million in each year between 2022 and 2025. The money is meant to support the organization’s accelerator and scale-up programming. 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.
“Our goal is to make Alberta a hub for high growth entrepreneurial businesses and recognized as an attractive place for technology investment,” said Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates. “We want to help companies scale – not just to become $5-million or $10-million companies – we want to see companies get to $100 million or more.”
Alberta’s tech sector has been growing in recent years amid the shift from an oil and gas-focused economy to one that is more diversified and includes the tech sector. Even amid COVID-19, Alberta tech companies had a record year for venture capital, doubling the amount invested in 2019. According to the recent report from the CVCA, in 2020, Alberta reported $455 million in venture capital investment.
Some notable raises over the past year have included Symend, which pulled in $127 million CAD in Series B financing, Jobber with $76 million CAD, and Neo Financial, which managed to raise $50 million CAD as it launched into the challenger bank market. While not a venture investment, major Calgary-based firm Benevity also made big moves last year, reaching a $1 billion USD valuation following Hg purchasing a majority controlling stake in the company.
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With a growing tech ecosystem, Alberta is already home to a number of accelerator and innovation organizations, from more localized programs like Platform Calgary and Innovate Edmonton to those that have a more global reach including Creative Destruction Labs’ (CDL) Rockies and Founder Institute, a global pre-seed accelerator, which opened a Calgary location last year. In July, the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF), backed by the City of Calgary, also brought Prairie venture builder program Harvest Builders (created by SkipTheDishes founder Chris Simair) to the province with a $4 million investment.
A significant focus for Alberta’s government of late has been to attract more innovation investments and resources into the province. As part of the most recent budget the United Conservative Party (UCP) government announced its intent to adopt a “smart approach” to innovation in order to make Alberta an attractive and competitive landscape for global high-tech investment.
Three types of accelerators will be considered for the RFP: pre-accelerators, sector-focused accelerators, and sector agnostic accelerators. Alberta Innovates noted, “All three streams are designed to attract local and global accelerator programs to Alberta, to recognize technology and innovation scale-up potential in the province and strengthen it.”
The RFP is open until April 30 and Alberta Innovates is hosting a vendor-only information webinar on April 22 to provide an overview of the RFP process in more detail.