Alberta’s innovation minister wants province to be a “dominant player” in Canadian tech


Alberta’s minister of innovation wants to make the province’s tech sector a dominant player in the Canadian innovation arena, and he believes the ecosystem has the chops to make that happen.

In an interview with BetaKit, Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy, and innovation, spoke about how the province’s tech sector has matured in recent years. His comments follow a report recently released by Alberta Enterprise Corporation, which found that the Alberta tech ecosystem is showing signs of momentum.

The report identified 3,083 tech companies in Alberta in 2021, compared to 1,238 companies in 2018. Not only is the number of tech companies growing, but so are the sizes of these companies. According to AEC, almost 40 percent of local tech companies surveyed have revenues exceeding $1 million, a 66 percent increase since 2018.

Speaking with BetaKit, Schweitzer echoed that Alberta’s ecosystem is showing positive momentum.

“For years we’ve been talking about the emerging tech sector in the province of Alberta,” Schweitzer said. “I think we’re beyond that now. We’re at the point where it’s really maturing to the point where it’s sustainable.”

“We don’t want [Alberta] to just be a player,” the minister added. “We want to become a dominant player in the whole innovation space in Canada.”

Schweitzer was appointed to his role in August, previously serving as Alberta’s justice minister and solicitor general. At the time, his position was newly-created by the province, replacing the Minister of Economic Development, Trade, and Tourism.

Schweitzer told BetaKit, from day one of his appointment his priority was to focus on the tech sector and its role in Alberta’s pandemic recovery efforts. Not only does it diversify the economy and create jobs, he said, but it also provides opportunities for young Albertans wanting to stay in the province.

Schweitzer said his legal background exposed him to the role technology can play in the future of every industry, which is why tech is a cornerstone of his strategy.

“It’s not just an industry on its own that stands by itself, it has applications across all of our traditional economic drivers in our country,” he added. “So, I understood the importance of the tech sector and we really needed to make sure we focused on it and [encourage] the venture capital habit.”

Alberta’s tech sector growth in recent years comes amid a shift from an energy-focused economy to one that embraces its tech ecosystem. Even amid a global pandemic, Alberta tech companies had a record year for venture capital, doubling the amount invested in 2019.

According to the CVCA, Alberta reported a record year of $455 million in venture capital investment in 2020. Hockeystick’s latest ecosystem report indicated that Calgary’s tech startups had a solid year of venture activity, with dollars raised and deals closed growing by 88 percent and 26 percent, respectively, from 2019.