Alberta government must invest in tech sector now: Edmonton Global

As Alberta’s economy continues to take a beating because of COVID-19 shut-downs and the staggering drop in oil prices, a group working to attract more investment to the Edmonton region is calling on the Jason Kenney government to make major investments in digital infrastructure immediately.

Edmonton Global, said its Road to Recovery: Resiliency stimulus plan released this month, has outlined how to prepare Alberta, post-pandemic, and ease the shock of businesses struggling right now.

“We do see a lot of our core sectors hardest hit,” Lynette Tremblay, vice president of strategy and innovation at Edmonton Global, said. “But we do see a path forward for them and some hope in the future.

“Not only do we need to act fast, we also need to be willing to make significant investments.”

Edmonton Global said the key to compete in the new reality is having the ability to innovate with new technology in every sector. The group pointed to oil and gas playing a major part in developing geothermal and hydrogen technology.

“There’s a lot that we have to offer and we see those as opportunities right now,” Tremblay said.

Edmonton Global said Alberta and Canada had not been focused enough on technology adoption like artificial intelligence and 5G (fifth-generation) cellular wireless communication.

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“We think now is the time to change that,” Tremblay said.

“We talk to international site selectors on a regular basis and they’ve told us that it’s an expectation that metro regions are well-equipped with broadband.”

Tremblay added, “if they’re not, then they’re not in consideration for investment.”

One of the other recommendations to the province is to allocate $6.5 million to applied pharmaceutical innovation and coordinating a network of chemical labs and suppliers.

Edmonton Global said it would allow Alberta to scale up and manufacture high-priority drugs.

Home-grown companies that have had to look for support south of the border have also urged the Alberta government to chart a new economic path.

Aris MD recently pitched its technology to NASA, telling the NASA iTech team 3-D diagnostic imaging could speed up COVID-19 drug trials.

Chandra Devam, CEO of Aris MD, said Edmonton-based companies aren’t getting enough interest from government and more programs are needed to support local tech companies.

“We’re being utilized across the border,” Devam said.

“I really wanted to be a sole-based Canadian company, but the support wasn’t here for me.”

It worked out for Aris MD, which Devam said is now working with NASA, but she said local start-up companies are coming up with solutions for COVID-19 and other problems that could have made-in-Alberta solutions.

“I see tech companies being essential to building the Alberta economy after COVID-19,” Devam said. “We’re a renewable resource and one worth investing in.”

Edmonton Global said it shared its economic recovery blueprint with the province and has continued to seek out advice from its network of more than 70 partners, which include economists, academic institutions and chambers of commerce.

“We’re ready to help the government with its implementation plan.”

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