City of Edmonton to discuss proposed model for new innovation entity

Edmonton

On Monday, Edmonton’s City Council is set to discuss a proposed structure and governance model for a new organization that will be responsible for advancing the innovation ecosystem within the city.

“Edmonton has a tremendous opportunity to continue to build on the strengths of an active and creative entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

Last Fall, the City entered into a process to explore creating municipally-funded tech innovation entities, independent of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC). The latest report on the effort was made public on Thursday. The report provides details on what this new innovation entity would look like and how the transition would take place.

EEDC is a not-for-profit agency owned by the City of Edmonton. It operates Innovate Edmonton, Edmonton Tourism, the Edmonton Convention Centre, and the Edmonton EXPO Centre. Edmonton’s city council voted in December to change the EEDC’s mandate, scaling back the organization’s responsibilities and separating out Innovate Edmonton and Startup Edmonton.

The latest report has offered up a structure and governance model for the new innovation entity, which it calls Edmonton Innovates. The report also provides details on Edmonton’s “economic development enablers,” the overall goal of economic development, and outlines how this change to a new innovation entity could be realized.

“Edmonton has a tremendous opportunity to continue to build on the strengths of an active and creative entrepreneurship ecosystem by creating a purpose driven innovation entity,” the report stated. “This entity will support the ecosystem with focused programs and services and a funding mechanism. The work of this entity will be even more important in a post COVID world where innovation and diversification are key to a more resilient local economy.”

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The report added that the new Edmonton Innovates will build “a stronger and supportive ecosystem by injecting capital that will be matched by investors” and will work with “technology entities and stakeholders” to coordinate programs and start new initiatives aimed at increasing the number of startups in Edmonton.

Currently, the City’s innovation is driven by Innovate Edmonton, a division of the EEDC, which supports startups and scaleups through networking, resources, and funding. Innovate Edmonton’s partner organizations include Startup Edmonton, Advanced Technology Centre, which supports growth-stage companies, and business accelerator TEC Edmonton; all of which currently fall under EEDC.

Last month, as part of broader COVID-related layoffs and downsizing by EEDC, Innovate Edmonton lost key members of its leadership team, including vice president Cheryll Watson and Alexandra Hryciw, director of strategy and stakeholder relations.

While it was originally thought that the new innovation entity could be the umbrella organization for Innovate Edmonton, TEC Edmonton, and Startup Edmonton, the future of those groups is unclear based on the report.

The report does not acknowledge Innovate Edmonton and at this time it is not clear if the group and its team will be part of the new Edmonton Innovates, or if there will be a new organization entirely.

The report noted that innovation programs offered by Startup Edmonton should be moved into the new entity and evaluated. Startup Edmonton brand equity, the report said, should be assessed, along with a determination of whether it can be leveraged in the Edmonton Innovates.

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The report adds that there is also an opportunity to work with existing innovation entities such as Edmonton Screen Industries Office, Health City, and the University of Alberta (through TEC Edmonton), to review programming, streamline functions, and reduce duplication.

“The new innovation entity will support and coordinate Edmonton’s innovation community…using a more integrated approach than in the past.”

The report recommends the City administration begin to create the new innovation entity and outlines the process of recruiting eight directors for its board. The recommendations and government model were sourced from engagement with stakeholders from Edmonton’s innovation ecosystem, which included Innovate Edmonton, Startup Edmonton, entrepreneurs, universities, provincial and federal governments, and more.

The report also recommends that the mandate of the new innovation entity be to “optimize resources and leverage talent within Edmonton to diversify the economy, allowing innovation to become a major economic driver in Edmonton.” The idea, said the report, is to create an agile, lean, accountable, and community-focused group that provides a range of services and programming, including the operation of a new venture fund.

The fund would be an estimated $5 million to $10 million, said the report, with the exact amount and source of funding to be determined by the CEO and board.

The report notes that the Edmonton City Council, “as representative of the sole shareholder, will
appoint board members and receive annual reports from the organization.” The City’s council and administration, as well as Edmonton Global, and “sector-specific mentors and business advisors” will all have input into Edmonton Innovates. The organization’s recommended structure would include a board, CEO, and an entrepreneur advisory committee.

Edmonton City Council is set to discuss the report on Monday and it is expected they will vote on recommendations. With Edmonton council’s approval, the City’s Administration will set up Edmonton Innovates over a five-month period. The report notes that “the current COVID-19 situation may require this timeline to be extended.”

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The five-year plan would see Edmonton Innovates created this year as a non-profit corporation. In 2020 the recruitment of board members and a CEO would also take place.

Once the entity is established and structures set in place, “the innovate Edmonton component of EEDC will be reviewed for alignment with the mandate of the new entity and moved,” stated the report. In 2021, the new entity would start developing the venture fund and work to create partnerships with other local innovation organizations.

“Edmonton’s active and creative entrepreneurship ecosystem is underpinned by a number of existing technology related entities,” the report stated. “These entities have successfully supported growth in the health, artificial intelligence and agri-tech sectors and show significant potential to encourage growth in other sectors.”

“The purpose of the new innovation entity is to support Edmonton’s interconnected and evolving ecosystem,” it added. “The new innovation entity will support and coordinate Edmonton’s innovation community after the pandemic emergency to encourage and support investors, entrepreneurs and scale-ups using a more integrated approach than in the past.”

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.