Unlocking Calgary’s AI future

October 19, 2023
Innovation New Economy Technology
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This article first appeared in GeekWire on October 9, 2023.

The city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, is set to lead a $20 billion wave of digital transformation between 2021 to 2024. At the core of this transformation is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is accelerating efficiency across all sectors of the economy. 

Artificial Intelligence is thriving in Calgary 

Calgary's startup ecosystem is flourishing, with its ecosystem valued at $5.2 billion by Startup Genome. AltaML, a leading AI-powered solutions developer that ranked seventh on LinkedIn’s 2023 list of top Canadian startups, is a prime example of a successful Calgary-based startup.  

“In Calgary, and Alberta in particular, the current state of AI development is soaring,” shares Nicole Janssen, Co-Founder and Co-CEO for AltaML. “There is a real opportunity here for us to capitalize on the momentum and become the main hub for tech in Canada.”  

According to Janssen, AI adoption and education are among the largest hurdles currently faced by AI companies and talent. However, by leading with education on the benefits of AI solutions, they are making progress. 

Local government, academia and non-profit players are boosting the AI momentum 

In 2021, AltaML received $3.25 million from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF), a $100 million fund, to launch and operate the Applied AI Lab. The Applied AI Lab was designed to upskill approximately 240 individuals over a three-year period, adding in-demand AI talent to Calgary’s economy. 

“Investments from our government and academia have also played a pivotal role in encouraging and supporting the growth of the AI industry in Calgary,” adds Janssen. 

The Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), a non-profit institute that supports AI research and industry adoption, is also seeing the impact of this support across the economy.  

“Our tech ecosystem is expanding with startups using breakthroughs like GPT to create new businesses,” shares Russ Erickson, the VP of Investment and Partnerships with Amii. “Companies across all industries are looking at how AI more broadly can create game-changing solutions to the problems they are trying to solve.”  

Calgary is part of a growing global AI sector 

With AI adoption rising across the city’s key industries, Calgary is well-positioned for the economic opportunity that AI offers.  

“Our culture in Calgary has always been around practicality and resiliency, so I believe we are well positioned for the ups and downs the AI space will experience,” says Kelly Cherniwchan, Founder and CEO of Chata.ai, an AI company focusing on NLP-Driven Analytics.   

“This culture of resiliency is something that all of us locally need to promote with new visitors in the ecosystem as it is a key trait of entrepreneurial success.” 

With over 50,000 tech jobs representing 6.9 per cent of total employment according to CBRE, Calgary is the second most concentrated tech talent market in North America.  

“Alberta has the highest concentration in the world of AI talent. Calgary's strong and entrepreneurial business community and its direct access to one of the deepest AI talent pools in the world underpin the growth we have seen and will continue to see,” said Erickson. 

For tech firms considering Calgary, the skilled talent pool and high quality of life for employees sets the city apart from other jurisdictions.  

“Calgary is a great place for that talent to be put to work solving business problems. From a highly supportive tech startup ecosystem to the global companies with headquarters and large presence here, there are so many opportunities to grow in Calgary.” 

High scores in livability and collaboration set Calgary apart from other major cities in Canada, and both are priorities in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. 

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