Home to bright minds wanting to make a difference in the world, Calgary is emerging as a top city to build a life, and a career, of adventure and limitless opportunities.
The city has been one of the tech world’s best kept secrets, but when a respected publication such as the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Calgary as the third most livable city globally, and the first most livable in North America, the word starts to get out.
Put simply, career opportunities and a vibrant lifestyle live here.
The vision for the city is to support long-term prosperity and create opportunities for all by focusing on five areas – innovation, livability, business environment, talent and brand – as drivers in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy.
Big ideas, many of them emerging from the seven local post-secondary institutions, will help solve global challenges and are being commercialized at the over 45 business incubators and accelerators in Calgary that provide resources, connections and access to capital for startups.
As an affordable, active and inclusive community with a business-friendly attitude, Calgary is attracting young families, young talent and growing companies. The fast-maturing tech and innovation ecosystem means local companies know they can scale to the size of their ambitions without leaving.
Early career professionals along with new graduates can find opportunities in Calgary’s workforce, with the city boasting the highest labour productivity of major Canadian cities and a 4.9% unemployment rate in August 2022, below the national average of 5.4%.
In the first half of 2022, Calgary attracted the fourth-highest venture capital investment in Canada, with $427 million in 42 deals. The city is on pace to exceed the $500 million in VC investment through 2021, a record-breaking year.
The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) is a City of Calgary initiative that is a catalyst to accelerate investment and innovation. It has supported three accelerators this year to bolster the tech and innovation ecosystem.
Through OCIF’s investments, Avatar Innovations will launch at least 12 cleantech startups, and Thin Air Labs Fund I will support early-stage companies in the innovation ecosystem. IBM will open a Western Canada Client Innovation Centre focused on sustainability and talent development.
The city is experiencing the fastest growth in tech talent in North America. A LinkedIn Talent Insights report this spring detailed a 22 per cent growth in tech talent and tech jobs in five years in Calgary. The city was also ranked 28th among the Top 50 North American markets in CBRE’s 2022 Scoring Tech Talent report.
Maintaining Momentum in 2022: Calgary’s Key Sector Updates
Calgary’s economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, sets out a path that supports a diverse and sustainable economy. Eight key sectors drive the city’s long-term prosperity. Here’s an update for each sector:
Calgary is internationally recognized as a top tech talent hub with notable rankings from LinkedIn Talent Insights and CBRE, but the evolving tech talent pool is proven beyond a rank system.
- Multinational firms are creating talent hubs to further develop Calgary’s tech ecosystem with in-demand skills, including the RBC Calgary Innovation Hub and the IBM Western Canada Client Innovation Centre, announced in June 2022.
- Multinational tech giants Mphasis and Infosys opened regional headquarters in Calgary and they have plans to hire 1,000 jobs and 500 Calgarians by 2024, respectively.
- Gov.Lab.AI, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) lab powered by AltaML and funded by the Government of Alberta and OCIF, will commercialize pilot programs and develop tech talent through a talent accelerator. The lab will create applied data science internships to accelerate AI, Machine Learning and skills development.
- The University of Calgary announced Quantum City in June. The technology hub is designed to manufacture and test tech innovation, accelerate development of quantum technologies and tech talent. The venture is a collaboration with the University of Alberta and University of Lethbridge.
- EDGE UP, a tech reskilling program for displaced energy professionals, celebrated the graduation of its second cohort in 2022. With 204 graduates to date, the program helps fill Calgary’s digital tech talent pipeline while engaging more than 150 local employers in work-integrated learning opportunities.
Companies don’t have to leave Calgary to scale to global heights. In fintech, Neo Financial achieved a $1 billion unicorn valuation in May only three years after inception. Neo’s fast-tracked journey was supported through Harvest Builders, an OCIF-backed business accelerator.
Fintech companies are streaming to Calgary, with recent Calgary expansions in 2022 including Binance, FTX and Xero.
More on Calgary's Enterprise Technology Sector.
Energy & Environment
Calgary’s energy firms and cleantech startups are at the forefront of bringing innovative net-zero ideas to market, as part of the opportunity identified in the Alberta Energy Transition Study.
- Validere, a commodity management platform for the energy industry, raised $43 million in Series B funding in March. The firm helps energy companies translate data into actionable pathways for financial value and environmental value within the path to net zero.
- TC Energy, in partnership with Nikola, announced a potential southern Alberta hydrogen production hub in April to fuel the transition to net zero.
- The Government of Canada invested over $1.4 million in startup SixRing, to scale production of low-energy biomass conversion from agricultural waste into renewable fuels and sustainable materials in September.
Calgary is recognized as a global hub for cleantech innovation and a leader in the net-zero energy transition, clocking in the Top 30 of 286 Cleantech ecosystems in the world by Startup Genome in 2021.
Accelerators and incubators with specialties in clean-tech innovation are located in Calgary, a global centre of excellence in energy, including Plug and Play, SVG | Thrive, CDL-Rockies and Avatar Innovations.
The Energy Transition Centre, a hub for accelerators, academia and industry, opens in September in The Ampersand.
More on Calgary’s Energy & Environment sector.
Agriculture & Agribusiness
Agtech is a key subsector with potential to drive the net-zero pathway within energy transition in Alberta.
Agtech companies focused on urban farming, plant and animal protein production are experiencing momentum as demand and global food insecurity drive production of locally-grown food and crops for export.
- Agriplay, an urban farming company based in Calgary Tower, announced a plan to convert 65,000 sq. ft. of rentable office space into an elevated urban farm, contributing to Calgary’s downtown vibrancy in March .
Future-focused collaboration in the Calgary-Olds Smart Agri-Food Corridor drives innovation, research and development.
- In August, Olds College rebranded to Olds College of Agriculture & Technology, as “the agriculture sector is poised for a revolution fostering innovation & technology to create economic & employment opportunities at a dramatic pace.”
This transformational shift to integrate technology with agricultural practices is echoed within Calgary-based accelerators and incubators specializing in ag investments.
- The 51 Food and Agtech Fund announced in August that up to $50 million would be invested in Canadian businesses in ag, food and aquaculture tech sectors. The fund joins agriculture-focused accelerators Tall Grass Ventures, SVG | Thrive, CDL-Rockies' Ag Stream, and Plug and Play Alberta's Sustainability program.
More on Calgary’s Agriculture & Agribusiness sector.
Digital Media & Entertainment
With Calgary’s creative industries projected to spend $566 million on digital transformation by 2024, gaming, e-sports, animation and visual effects are emerging as key engines of growth.
Strategic provincial collaboration is key to set the stage and attract IDM ecosystem players to Alberta, while continuing to support established anchor companies.
- Two provincial strategies – an Alberta Esports Strategy and a Growth Strategy for Animation and VFX – will be released this fall. The esports strategy is led by the Alberta Esports Association, Calgary Economic Development, Edmonton Screen Industries Office, Explore Edmonton, Edmonton Global and Tourism Calgary.
Calgary is increasingly home to industry anchors and local champions in interactive digital media.
- Unity, a leading platform for creating and operating real-time 3D (RT3D) content, opened its 25,000 sq. ft. Innovation Centre in March 2022.
With support from Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund, the global game engine and 3D content platform leader is set to accelerate the incubation of new digital technologies in Calgary and develop high skill tech jobs.
- TITAN1STUDIOS, a cross-media content and technology studio specializing in original intellectual property re-located from Toronto to Calgary in June.
- Brane Capital Trust, an independent cryptocurrency asset holding company, opened offices in Calgary in April 2022 with plans to expand their team.
Calgary is building an interactive digital media talent pipeline.
- The Bow Valley College Centre for Entertainment Arts announced diploma and certificate programs in January , to support the demand for talent in Calgary’s growing digital and creative industries. Programs include:
- Advanced 3D Animation & 3D Modelling Diploma of Achievement
- Advanced Visual Effects (Virtual Production) Diploma of Achievement
- Foundation in Entertainment Arts Certificate of Achievement
As Calgary’s film and TV sector experiences record-breaking growth year over year, the opportunity for growth within animation, visual effects and virtual production is limitless.
*Interactive Digital Media was renamed to Digital Media & Entertainment as of September 27, 2022.
More on Calgary’s Digital Media & Entertainment sector.
Film & Television
Calgary is a film friendly city sought after by local, national and international film and TV productions.
- Calgary was named a top 10 city to live and work as a movie maker in 2022 on the Best Places to Live and Work as a MovieMaker, by MovieMaker.
- The Calgary Film Centre, William F. White Studio and Rocky Mountain Film Studio host over 500,000 sq. ft. of retrofit and purpose-built studio space. With the addition of Rocky Mountain Film Studio's purpose built facilities, this is projected to increase to over 700,000 sq. ft. before the end of December 2022.
- The largest TV production to ever be shot in Canada, HBO’s Last of Us, wrapped up filming in June.
The Calgary film & TV region is focused on supporting a sustainable film & TV production sector and prioritizes EDIA and Indigenous Reconciliation.
- In March, the Calgary Film Commission won an Alex Metcalfe Award for their Environmental, Social and Governance Strategy for Film and TV.
- Film and TV productions are elevating Indigenous voices to support Truth and Reconciliation. PREY, filmed on Stoney Nakoda Nation, was Hulu and Disney Plus’ largest movie opening ever in August 2022.
* The Film & Television sector highlights were updated on September 26, 2022 at 2:00 p.m.
More on Calgary’s Film & TV sector.
Health & Life Sciences
Calgary is home to over 120 health and life science companies that research and create solutions to global health challenges.
- Syantra, a precision oncology company and graduate of Plug and Play Alberta’s first cohort, closed $6.8 million in Series A funding in January.
- Providence Therapeutics, founded on oncology research and cancer therapies, pivoted to create a globally accessible mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. It was named Company of the Year at the 2021 BioAlberta Annual Achievement Awards.
Life science companies in Calgary are eligible to apply to sector-specific accelerators and incubators, such as the Life Sciences Innovation Hub, which is dedicated to providing resources and mentorship to startups.
More on Calgary’s Life Sciences sector.
Calgary is emerging as a centre of innovation in the global aerospace industry. Home to the third busiest airport in Canada and one of Canada’s major airlines, Calgary is an established aviation hub.
- De Havilland Canada announced a plan in March to bring 500 jobs to Calgary, as the firm manufactures firefighting planes (DHC-515’s) which are purchased around the world.
- Passenger-value line Lynx Air selected Calgary as headquarters and Canada Jetlines announced Calgary routes in August.
Calgary also hosts national aviation partnerships and regional centres for research and development.
- A Beyond Visual Line of Sight Innovation Centre (BVLOS InC) was announced in March in Foremost, AB which will advance efforts to grow the remotely piloted aircraft system ecosystem in Canada.
- Canadian UAVs secured a first-of-its-kind permit from Transport Canada in March, which allows the company to perform beyond visual line of site flight operations anywhere in Canada, in Class G airspace up to 400 feet AGL. This sets the stage for the company to be a leader in the regulatory development for safe unmanned aerial vehicle operations.
More on Calgary’s Aerospace sector.
Transportation & Logistics
Calgary is Western Canada’s distribution hub, with air, rail and ground access reaching 16 million consumers within 24 hours.
- Together with ATCO Group, CP Rail announced an expansion of their Hydrogen Locomotive Program in Alberta in May, expanding hydrogen production facilities in both Calgary and Edmonton. Hydrogen infrastructure will be powered from an existing solar power facility as of 2023.
Industry collaboration is yielding innovation in cleantech transportation to connect our future.
More on Calgary’s Transportation and Logistics sector.