Calgary accelerates growth of cutting-edge companies 

April 5, 2022
General Business Innovation New Economy

Calgary is emerging as one of North America’s most important innovation hubs where ambitious companies are helping to solve global challenges with new ideas and technology.

A globally connected city in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, Calgary has a growing innovation ecosystem turning out startups and scaling companies across sectors, including cleantech and energy, health and life sciences, agribusiness and logistics.

Home to a wide range of international and Canadian business accelerators, local companies at all stages of growth have access to diverse funding, mentorship and connections to bring bright ideas and next-generation solutions to global markets.

Read on to learn more about some of the accelerators that make up Calgary’s inclusive innovation community.

Designed in Calgary, made for the world

What does GPS, the SMART Board and the Space Vision System have in common? Benevity, Shareworks, Parvus Therapeutics? From advanced technology that improves life all over the world (and in space) to billion-dollar global companies – they were all founded in Calgary.

The strength of Calgary’s tech and innovation ecosystem – a highly educated population, decades as an energy sector leader, a concentration of corporate headquarters with the large volumes of data they produce, and a pool of savvy investors – is attracting the attention of leading global accelerators.

Plug and Play 

Alberta’s diversified economy, business-friendly environment and highly educated talent pool were all factors that drove global accelerator Plug and Play to open a Calgary office. Plug and Play is a leading innovation platform for connecting startups, corporations, venture capital firms, universities and government agencies. With Plug and Play’s large international network of more than 30,000 startups and 500 corporations, Calgary companies and technologies can connect with blue-chip companies across the globe, providing Calgary talent with a unique opportunity to shine on the world stage.

Plug and Play has three cohorts in its accelerator program focused on sectors in which Alberta has deep expertise, including sustainability and clean technology, and health and life sciences. The sector-agnostic cohort places significant emphasis on AI and digital technology.

Calgary presents Plug and Play with a compelling opportunity. The concentration of corporate headquarters in the city fosters connections for smaller companies with global interests; the people here are committed to innovation and entrepreneurship; and the support of the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) shows the city is dedicated to spur transformative economic development. Plug and Play Alberta will receive up to $7 million from OCIF over five years to support the growth of promising startups through mentorship, networking, access to capital and business acceleration opportunities.


Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs is critical to successful economic diversification. Honouring the talent, expertise, and experience of Calgary’s business community, the Intergen “mentorship matching” program connects established business leaders with new entrepreneurs. Sandi Gilbert, CEO, says that Calgary’s business leaders want to “see this next generation succeed.”

Many of the city’s prominent business leaders come from the energy sector, but that doesn’t stop them from working with entrepreneurs developing new technologies across multiple sectors. “This is about building global businesses and marshalling the experience and talent you need to get there,” says Gilbert. Intergen’s network of business experts is one of its most important assets, because it connects entrepreneurs to Calgary’s largest — often global — companies.

Intergen utilizes the city’s supportive, founder-based entrepreneurial system and the wisdom and experience of an older generation to help young entrepreneurs lead the next generation of innovative companies and create continued economic prosperity. 

Avatar Innovations 

 Avatar Innovations is at the forefront of Calgary’s energy transition, producing both effective leaders and technologies for commercialization and scale. Avatar provides a space for companies to experiment and develop new technologies to accelerate the decarbonization of the energy sector. Avatar aims to create a workforce capable of leading and adapting to the energy transition.

Its Avatar Ignite accelerator works with emerging industry leaders in the energy sector, placing them on cross-functional teams to build new decarbonization technologies and initiatives for commercialization. The 12-week program generates between five to 15 initiatives that are ready to move to the next step – Avatar Accelerator.

Avatar Accelerator, Canada’s first carbontech accelerator, helps get these ideas into production and ready for investment by partnering company-sponsored projects with customers, capital and expertise.

Together, these two programs help companies stay on the cutting edge of technology and innovation and find the financial and market opportunities to achieve a sustainable energy transition.

SVG Ventures | THRIVE

THRIVE by SVG Ventures is the world’s leading Agrifood investment platform and one of Calgary’s newest global accelerators. Its first Canadian cohort consisted of 10 companies from 168 total applicants. SVG THRIVE’s accelerator program supports early-stage Canadian startups in all areas of the food supply chain whose technology will provide disruptive tech solutions to some of the biggest global challenges.

As the largest global AgTech accelerator, SVG Thrive has an impressive mentorship network for its accelerator companies. The SVG Thrive network includes access to major corporate partners such as Bayer, Forbes, and Land O’Lakes. These partnerships are mutually beneficial. According to Canada Managing Director John Cassidy, “CEOs need to ensure their companies are profitable and sustainable. By keeping up with technology and innovation, they can be.”

Academic accelerators

Calgary is home to seven post-secondary institutions and has one of the best-educated and most STEM-oriented populations in North America. Not surprising, it is rich in academic accelerators that help young entrepreneurs hone their tech, marketing, and business skills; gain experience so they can lead the next generation of companies.

Creative Destruction Lab - Rockies

Located in the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, the Creative Destruction Lab - Rockies (CDL-R) accelerator helps tech founders make the transition from lab to business. CDL-R brings university-based scientists and researchers together with business specialists and mentors to guide early-stage entrepreneurs as they commercialize their research.

Every year, CDL-R offers three streams: Ag, Energy, and Prime (for tech innovation across diverse industries). Each highly competitive stream admits 25 ventures and pairs them with top-tier MBA and Executive MBA student partners, experienced entrepreneurs and investors. CDL-R takes no equity or intellectual property and charges no fees for participation.

Since 2017, CDL-R alumni companies have generated $1.3 billion in equity value.

Life Sciences Innovation Hub

Located in the University of Calgary Research Park, the Life Sciences Innovation Hub (LSI Hub) provides companies with an accessible and cost-effective space to develop products, research and technologies, while encouraging collaboration with experienced and respected mentors and trained technicians. With 127,000 sqaure feet of office and lab space, specialized equipment and services, the LSI Hub provides valuable entrepreneurial and business development mentorship and support for students, researchers, and emerging companies in the life sciences arena. 

The Life Sciences Innovation Hub focuses on the following categories of companies: 

  • Digital health and life sciences 
  • Agriculture and veterinary medicine 
  • Energy, cleantech and environmental
  • Engineering and physical sciences
  • Laboratory research tools and reagents
  • Manufacturing and industrial application 

In addition to lab space and the latest equipment, members also receive access to expert advisors, workshops and other learning opportunities, as well as the new UCeed Health Fund that helps commercialize new technologies and accelerates start-ups from University of Calgary alumni.

Mount Royal University Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Mount Royal University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship sees itself as being in the business of developing innovative people – those who found new companies as well as those with the business acumen and experience to help established companies grow to the next level.  

“A lot of companies can get to $10 million by virtue of their founder’s work – but they can’t scale. Our program creates a unicorn person—someone who can talk to engineers, salespeople, developers, marketers, etc.,” says Ray DePaul, Director of the Institute. “We help create scale-up enablers.”  

The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has funding available for entrepreneurs in various stages of growth and exposes students to the larger investment/accelerator community in the city. They do this through personalized mentorship programs, innovation sprints and the annual $80,000 JMH LaunchPad Pitch Competition 

As the Institute’s website proudly states: “Participants of LaunchPad have joined Calgary's fastest-growing companies, sold their company for $35M, got into a bidding war on Dragon's Den and launched non-profits that make our city a better place.”

Platform Calgary: Nucleus of the ecosystem

Located in the East Village, the Platform Innovation Centre is a hub dedicated to supporting startups and entrepreneurs at all stages of the business life cycle. It provides a space for tech companies and local innovators to access resources, support, programs and networking to launch and grow their businesses in the city’s vibrant tech ecosystem. The nearly 70 partners who use the space to network, innovate, pitch and collaborate share the goal of tripling the city’s existing tech sector within the next decade, creating 30,000 new jobs at 3,000 new companies.

Platform has an array of programs, from the Foreign Graduate Start-Up Visa Stream to the 321 Growth Academy to the CEO Roundtable. Platform works as a hub, connecting startups, founders, enterprises, and industry with the resources they need to grow and thrive.

As one of Calgary’s most powerful engines for new economic growth and job creation, Platform has created an attractive investment environment, offering its community of innovators a high-tech place to connect with each other, buyers, companies, capital and investment. Its mentorship mandate has created diversity in the local economy by helping a wide variety of businesses succeed and has paved the way for deal flow accelerators to enter the Calgary ecosystem.

Venture capital funds

The strong economy means Calgary is home to one of the highest concentrations of high net-worth individuals in North America who are now backing a new generation of companies that will flourish through innovation. The city has attracted record levels of venture capital coming out of 2021. Calgary broke its venture capital investment record in 2021, deploying $500 million in total funding. There is a great diversity of venture capital portfolios in the city, including AgTech, FinTech, Analytics, AI, SportsTech, Aerospace, Life Sciences, Energy, and more.

Accelerate Fund

Accelerate Fund supports the growth of early-stage Alberta technology companies with a venture capital fund.

Managed by Yaletown Partners and partnered with the A100, its goal is to bring more private equity to the investment community in Calgary and build greater local investor support of startups and new technology. Accelerate Fund does this using its unique investment model, in which it matches angel investment one to one, and shares with other investors its due-diligence research performed by its Investment Fund Manager, Arden Tse. “We’re helping to encourage more private citizens into the investment network,” says Tse.

Accelerate Fund’s partnership with the A100 gives clients a network of experienced Alberta tech leaders and entrepreneurs who can provide guidance, mentorship and subject matter expertise.


A local organization with a clear mission to drive change is The51, Financial Feminist ™ platform. It aims to make Calgary Canada’s feminist investment capital.

“We want women to come to Calgary because the capital is here, and the ecosystem is here,” said co-founder Shelly Kuipers.

Thirty per cent of tech companies in Alberta have at least one female founder, which is twice the national average. The51 sees women in tech as an underserved but overperforming market.  The51’s goal is to activate $2.5 billion in women-led capital by 2030. They have activated more than $60 million so far, by investing $17 million in 30 ventures.

Thin Air Labs

Thin Air Labs is an early-stage investment firm that looks for technology providing innovative solutions to global issues. While it is sector- agnostic, its fund focuses on high-impact areas such as aerospace, agtech, and life sciences. Managing partner James Lochrie says that Calgary is a great place to invest in technology – in large part thanks to the city’s energy background.

“The types of problems that people are used to solving in Calgary are of a different caliber than in other major Canadian cities. Entrepreneurs here think globally,” said Lochrie.

Thin Air Labs’ suite of services includes a funding catalyst service that helps founders identify funding opportunities and a product traction service that supports founders as they scale.

The place for your next venture adventure

The wealth of business accelerators and investors now active in Calgary’s tech and innovation ecosystems are strong indicators of the ambitions around the game-changing work being done in Calgary.

It’s clear the city is coming together to achieve the vision in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, to be the place where bright minds and big ideas come together with an unmatched spirit – a city where people can dream big, find community and help change the world with global solutions. 

For more information on OCIF and investment into the innovation ecosystem, visit Head to our Live Tech Love Life webpage for stories about forward-thinking tech companies, career opportunities and resources.  

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