Alberta Innovates provides $9.1-million boost for the province’s tech SMEs

Mark Lowey
June 8, 2022

Alberta Innovates is investing more than $9.1 million in 15 projects aimed at supporting Alberta’s small- and medium-sized companies and strengthening the province’s emerging technology ecosystems.

The funding, announced on June 2, is for activities that range from short-term collaboration-building projects for technology hubs, to three-year, cohort-based projects that directly support growing companies.

The grants were provided through Alberta Innovates’ Ecosystem Development Pilot Program.

The largest grant — nearly $1.35 million — went to Cybera Inc., a Calgary-based not-for-profit organization, for its newly established Applied Data Science Lab for Economic Development program.

"The Applied Data Science Lab was created to help bridge those who are looking for data science experience with organizations who are looking to adopt data science," Graham Sucha, community engagement specialist with Cybera, said in an email to Research Money.

The program will support SMEs and not-for-profits that have collected data as part of their early adoption phase of data science, and provide them with a tangible prototype tool or system that leverages their data, he said.

The early-stage tool is designed to improve efficiencies, optimize performance, or save service and operational costs, he added.

Edmonton-based insurance tech startup PainWorth used the tool, and subsequently increased growth and secured external investment, Sucha noted.

In January, PainWorth secured $2.1 million in seed financing to simplify the personal injury claims process through its patent-pending software, which uses machine learning to simplify and settle personal injury claims faster, and with a less adversarial process.

Sucha noted that SMEs often lack the internal experience to develop a data science proof-of-concept, or the capital to take a risk on a data science hypothesis.

Cybera's Applied Data Science Lab de-risks the financial capital required by offering a low-cost testbed to trial a data science project, while providing support and next steps for building in-house data science capabilities, he said.

The goal is for companies and not-for profits to develop their first, or multiple, proof-of-concept data projects, from the “discovery” stage through to “experiment” phase and implementation. Companies will own all intellectual property developed as part of the program.

The Data Science Lab's work-integrated learning program offers emerging data scientists the opportunity to work on real-world, long-term data science/machine-learning projects with startups, SMEs, and not-for-profits.

The Data Science Lab also is open to undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and professionals who have up-skilled or re-skilled. The program will operate throughout the year, and offer work-integrated learning internships ranging from two to six months.

Alberta Innovates pilot program designed to address gaps in innovation continuum

Cybera oversees the development of Alberta’s cyber-infrastructure — the advanced system of networks and computers created by and for university research, which now supports government, educational institutions, not-for-profits, business incubators, and entrepreneurs.

Cybera has 107 members, with more than 883,670 Albertans using Cybera services, according to the not-for-profit.

Cybera manages Alberta’s ultra-high-speed advanced research network, Cybera Net, which connects local researchers to about 100 research networks around the world. The network provides free cloud computing resources to Alberta innovators and entrepreneurs.

The 15 new projects supported by Alberta Innovates have province-wide focus, and will work collaboratively with other Alberta Innovates programs, such as the Alberta Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program, as well as Regional Innovation Networks to support Alberta’s emerging tech companies from inception to scaling.

Areas encompassed by the projects include: Internet of Things; blockchain; manufacturing and export enhancement; interactive digital media, connecting SMEs with European partners; accelerating revenues; helping very early-stage entrepreneurs and retaining entrepreneurs in Alberta; rural women entrepreneurs in technology; catalysts for growth; leadership development, investor training; innovation of “hard” technologies; and ecosystem development in energy,

“We created the Ecosystem Development Pilot Program to address gaps in the innovation continuum from ideation to commercialization, to reach rural and under-represented populations, and to bring additional specialized knowledge into the system to spur entrepreneurial growth and mindset in every part of the province,” said Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates.


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