Premier Stelmach on Track to Invigorate Alberta High-Tech

Today is a day of convergence. CCAT logoI was at a CCAT (Calgary Council for Advanced Technology) luncheon yesterday, where I enjoyed a tasty shitake mushroom tortellini, in addition to a great talk from David Martin, Executive Chairman & Co-Founder of Smart Technologies (which, by the way, at $400M last year in revenue, is the largest Calgary high-tech company, and within the largest 20 in Canada … more on that in a later blog).

At the request of the Premier Stelmach, for 60 intense days last spring, David led a “Value-Added and Technology Commercialization Task Force” to create economic value through a knowledge based economy vs. digging holes in the ground to suck out oil.

The task force presented a report containing 7 recommendations to Doug Horner, Minister of Education and Technology on May 31st, 2007. These recommendations centered around 3 themes: building an effective capital market, assisting growth of innovative firms and encouraging and rewarding entrepreneurship.

Task Force’s make their recommendations … and then wait for the political machinery to turn, if at all.

Convergence point # 1: As it turns out, Premier Stelmach’s is seemingly serious about their “high priority for technology commercialization and economic diversification.” (i.e. let’s use our current resource prosperity to build a more diverse and prosperous future for all of us). Alberta speech from the throne

In this week’s Alberta Speech from the Throne, amongst other things, we saw statements that the Alberta government is going to act on the task force recommendations with a “long term vision and focus for R&D”:

  • Create a provincial enterprise fund to attract co-investment from venture capital
  • Create new provincial tax credits for Scientific Research and Development
  • Establish a “Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy”
  • Develop new product commercialization centres

The proof of the pudding will be in next week’s Alberta budget … where I expect / hope to see $$$ evidence of the government’s intent to truly diversify.

Convergence point # 2: This can’t come at a better time. As stated in a recent Wired West blog post regarding an article in the April 28, 2008 edition of Canadian Business: “Calgary is home to more tech startups per capita than any other place in Canada.”

As Claudia Moore from Material Insight says in the article: “It takes you a little while to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, and Calgary is on the cusp of that.” I can’t think of a better place to be in high-tech than Calgary right now.

Bring it on! Having my faith somewhat restored in government listening to smart industry people, I picked up my fork to eat a delicious lemony cakey dessert at the CCAT luncheon … and washed it down with a steaming cup o’ joe, of course! Stay tuned for next week’s budget.